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Paul Ryan paradox: Voters like him, just not his ideas (+video)

Paul Ryan is generally seen as more likeable than not, polls say. But his Medicare reforms? Not so much. Wednesday's speech to the GOP convention is a chance to change that dynamic. 

By Staff writer / August 29, 2012

US congressman and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan does a check at the podium ahead of his address to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday. REUTERS/

Mike Segar/REUTERS

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Tampa, Fla.

When Paul Ryan ascends the Republican National Convention stage Wednesday night, he will do so as a political paradox.

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Monitor staff writer David Grant previews Wednesday night's speakers at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The congressman from Wisconsin, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, is relatively popular – and very popular among Republicans. But his ideas, particularly his vision for Medicare, are strongly opposed by a majority of Americans. 

So when Representative Ryan takes the stage Wednesday for what is essentially his prime time public unveiling, the disentangling of Paul Ryan, Medicare attacker, and Paul Ryan, fresh-faced conservative leader, will begin.

Ryan will aim to come off as the "likable" man "plenty competent to take the top job” in an emergency, as seen by Sen. Roger Wicker (R) of Mississippi. But in the coming weeks, Democrats will attempt to paint him as a hard-right Republican producing "hard-edged, uncompromising" legislation, as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland put it. 

Ryan is seen in a favorable light by a plurality of Americans, according to a national survey released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post. When asked to describe Ryan, the top responses trended positive, with "good" and "intelligent" among the top three answers. The other answers in the top five – "conservative," "young," and "unknown" – were seen as neutral. 

Overall, the picture is more mixed, with 37 percent of respondents using clearly positive terms, 35 percent using clearly negative terms, and 28 percent using neutral terms. That puts the Pew survey in line with recent polling by conservative group Resurgent Republic, which found 39 percent of the public view Ryan favorably versus 35 percent unfavorably. 

Wednesday is Ryan's opportunity to begin moving that needle in a positive direction. Senator Wicker says Ryan will show America that “he’s got a spine.” 

But Democrats see Ryan's advocacy for changes to entitlement programs as his undoing. 

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