The split in perception mirrors the one likely to play out throughout the campaign, as Ryan's bold ideas to slash spending were contrasted with some of the unpopular, and, Democrats argue, unbalanced approaches to taxes and spending.
Nominating Ryan shows "they're serious about blowing up the middle class and the working class. It just locks them in their position to eliminate middle class America," said Democratic Congressman Bob Brady, of Philadelphia. "Ryan is personally a nice man, I know him well, but his ideas are all for the one percenters and if we as Democrats don't wake up now we will never wake up."
Republican party leaders lauded Ryan.
Pennsylvania's Republican Senator Pat Toomey released the following statement praising the announcement of Ryan:
"I am thrilled that Governor Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate. In doing so, Gov. Romney has made the clearest, most unequivocal statement he could make that he intends his campaign and his presidency to be about solving America's greatest challenges.
"Congressman Ryan is one of Congress' strongest voices advocating for economic growth through free enterprise and fiscal sense through controlling spending. I'm delighted we have a Romney-Ryan ticket."
A similar view came from the state's Republican Chairman Rob Gleason, "Pennsylvanians will be well served by a Romney-Ryan team in White House that can finally shut the door on President Obama's four years of high unemployment, out-of-control spending, and usher a new era of American prosperity."
Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan praised Ryan as having "the long-standing confidence and trust of his constituents in Wisconsin because he's someone of honesty and integrity. Congressman Ryan's selection means a campaign that focuses on the big issues about the direction of the country, how we create jobs and put our fiscal house in order."
Democrat George Badey, who is challenging Meehan's re-election bid, issued a release saying the nomination makes "Congressman Meehan's votes for Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare all the more real, serious, and dangerous. We now know that ending Medicare as we know it is the central plank of the Romney-Ryan ticket and will be the defining issue in the 2012 elections." Badey said Meehan voted for the Ryan budget, while he is "running to protect seniors and middle class Pennsylvania families from this reckless agenda."
Democrats, though, see an opportunity, particularly in Congressional swing districts, given the popularity of Medicare and the cuts Ryan has proposed.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz, one of the highest ranking Democrats on the budget committee Ryan chairs, said the Republican's fiscal plans leave little room for compromise or finding common ground. Ryan's speech Saturday and focus on the deficit sounds good, Schwartz said, but the details will turn off Pennsylvanians.
"The choice he has made is not to ask more of big companies or multimillionaires, and instead to reduce opportunities for the middle class," said Schwartz, who represents Pennsylvania's 13th district.
Ryan's plans, she argued, rely on the "failed policies" of the past.
"If they worked we wouldn't be in this mess," she said.
As for plans to rely on private health plans to cut Medicare costs, Schwartz said, "they call that choice. We say if you can't afford it, you don't have much choice."
Added Pennsylvania's Democratic Senator Bob Casey: "The selection of Representative Ryan will bring more attention to policies that will hurt middle-class families. The Ryan budget would end Medicare as we know it and cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans while increasing taxes on the middle-class. The typical highest-earning households making more than $1 million a year would receive a $286,000 tax cut under the Ryan budget while the average family making between $50,000 and $100,000 would see their taxes go up by more than $1,300."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly fired at Rep. Jon Runyan, a Mount Laurel Republican who Democrats have made a prime target.
"No matter how hard House Republicans like Congressman Jon Runyan may try to run and hide, he can no longer cover up his budget that would deeply cut Medicare so he can give tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil, and companies shipping jobs overseas," said the DCCC's Jesse Ferguson. "The Republican budget is now Congressman Runyan's running mate as he must defend the indefensible – more tax cuts for millionaires and higher health care bills for seniors on Medicare."
Asked to respond, Runyan issued this statement: "During my brief time in Congress, I have seen firsthand what a smart, serious and solutions-oriented leader Paul Ryan is and I am proud to call him my friend. Governor Romney knows that we cannot continue down the irresponsible path of raising taxes on working families, small businesses and seniors to pay for the runaway spending and borrowing of career politicians in Washington. I strongly support his decision to pick Congressman Ryan and look forward to working with them to end business as usual in Washington and bring about the economic and fiscal reforms we need to create jobs and balance the budget."
Shelly Adler, the Democrat running against Runyan joined the critics. "Today, middle-class families and seniors in the Third District will hear the warning alarms because the Ryan-Runyan budget received a national stage to follow through on their harmful agenda."
Ryan's initial plan called for changing Medicare, beginning in 2023, by pushing beneficiaries into private plans, with subsidies from the government to help pay for premiums.
Democrats say the proposal would cost seniors an extra $6,000 a year, though Republicans argue that the plan would preserve Medicare by controlling its exploding costs, and deficit hawks have praised the budget as one that would drastically slash the federal government's annual shortfall. Ryan has since offered a less drastic proposal, but changes to Medicare remain a potent campaign subject, one both parties successfully seized upon in recent years.
Bill Layton, chairman of the Burlington County GOP, said Ryan is the best pick for a campaign that's looking to focus on the economy. Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, can clearly articulate budget matters down to the minutiae.
"I don't think anyone knows the budget and what this country faces better than Paul Ryan," Layton said. "There's no one with more credibility in Washington D.C. or the country when it comes to fixing the economy."
And while most pollsters don't think Romney is likely to win New Jersey, Ryan could boost Romney's chances in Wisconsin and in the crucial state of Pennsylvania, Layton said.
"A lot of the values in Wisconsin are similar to those in Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia," he said.
Democrats made the exact opposite argument.
"As a Democrat, I'm happy that Mitt Romney chose an arch conservative to be his running mate. It has the Romney campaign doubling down on tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class," said New Jersey Democratic chairman John Wisniewski.
He said that "Americans will see through" the trickle-down economics that Romney and Ryan espouse.
"Prior to today, Mitt Romney was not on the radar to win in New Jersey," he said. "This, I think, has clinched it for President Obama."
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), called Romney's pick further evidence of his "war on the middle class."
"Four years of a Romney-Ryan administration would be disastrous for New Jersey's middle class, who have shouldered too much of the tax burden," Menendez said in a statement.
New Jersey GOP state chairman Samuel Raia reacted with praise. "For years, Congressman Ryan has fearlessly and thoughtfully led the national debate about how to forge a better and more prosperous path for our country with real conservative solutions. President Obama has not only failed to lead, but recklessly driven our country into untold mountains of debt, and Congressman Ryan is the strong leader who will help Mitt Romney get America back on track."
In Chester County, Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the county Republican committee said he's hearing from supporters. "Judging by the way my Blackberry and phone are going crazy this morning, I think the reaction locally is very good indeed," he said. "He's been a favorite among our folks for several years now."
DiGiorgio, who recently had lunch with Ryan at a local fundraiser, said the congressman's "encyclopedic knowledge" of federal budget issues is likely to appeal to suburban Philadelphia Republicans, who are often more interested in the fiscal issues than the social conservatism that has dominated other wings of the national party.
But Colin Hanna, a former Chester County commissioner, social conservative activist and early backer of former candidate Rick Santorum, saw benefit to Ryan's pick even if the lawmaker is not known for embracing issues popular among values voters.
"I think his selection truly sets the stage for the debate that America needs," he said. "With Ryan now on the Romney ticket, we have a debate on limited government versus ever larger government in a more substantive way than we might have had with some of the other possible picks."
Hanna described Romney's selection as a bit of a surprise, considering other names such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman were cited as strong contenders for the ticket's second spot in recent days.
"But in the conversations I was having, those names never came from the conservative base. It was always from the media or the permanent class of pundits or strategists," he said. Ryan is more likely to appeal to grassroots conservatives, Hanna said, because "he's intellectually strong, he's nimble on his feet. He exudes energy and optimism."
Meanwhile in Philadelphia where a labor rally crowd estimated by organizers at 45,000, Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO gave The Inquirer his view of the Ryan pick.
Trumka said the choice shows Romney's "lack of ability to identify with working people. He picks the guy who wants to give tax breaks to the rich, and get rid of Social Security and Medicare as we know it. This seals the deal. He can't call himself somebody who can identify with workers."
Reaction continued Saturday to the Ryan choice:
New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Republican, 2nd district:
"Paul Ryan has the ability to raise the caliber of the debate to being very substantive," he said. Ryan's very specific plans also create targets for Democrats - they have already sent out a fusillade of press releases assailing his plans for Medicare -- but LoBiondo said that is to be expected. "Let's face it, the Democrats would demonize Abraham Lincoln if he were the vice presidential pick."
New Jersey Rep. Robert Andrews, Democrat, 1st district:
"When people focus on his idea to eliminate the Medicare guarantee, it will be very detrimental to the ticket," Andrews said. "He states those ideas very clearly. Gov. Romney has been ambiguous. It's not clear where he stands from day to day on a lot of things. Paul Ryan is very clear."