SPRINGFIELD -- Suburban Republicans Saturday praised Mitt Romney's decision to pick Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, saying the budget-minded lawmaker was a good fit as voters focus on government spending.
"He's as sharp as people think he is," said U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican who works closely with Ryan as part of House leadership.
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"He's earned the right to be heard by his colleagues and the country," Roskam said.
Ryan represents a Wisconsin congressional district that abuts Illinois, spanning the entire northern border of Lake and McHenry counties and sharing a border line with the congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a McHenry Republican.
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Winfield Republican who also works with Ryan in Congress, said he was surprised Saturday by Romney's choice.
"A pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless," he said.
Local Democrats were quick to respond, trying to portray what Republicans view as Ryan's strength as his weakness.
"In choosing Ryan, Mitt Romney has now doubled down in support of an extreme economic plan, clearly spelled out in the controversial Republican budget that Paul Ryan wrote, that takes from the poor and middle class and further enriches the wealthiest Americans," said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat.
Weeks ago, Ryan placed in a tie for third in a Daily Herald survey of the vice presidential preference of Illinois delegates to the Republican National Convention. The Illinois delegates at the time preferred Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
But Steve Kim of Northbrook, one of the delegates, said Saturday that he was both surprised and pleased with Romney's pick.
"He's kind of a number cruncher," Kim said of Ryan. "And that's kind of the person we need right now."
That was the main the message from Republicans Saturday, portraying Ryan as a policy wonk able to handle complex budget issues.
"In selecting Congressman Ryan, Mitt Romney has shown the nation that he understands that this election is about big issues facing our future," Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles said in a statement.
Ryan's selection Saturday provided both parties with a rallying point in the already hotly contested presidential race. Roskam said he thinks Ryan has some crossover appeal, as the district in Wisconsin where Ryan has won elections tends to lean toward Democrats.
"Paul consistently over-performs in that district," Roskam said.