NORFOLK, VA - AUGUST 11: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (C) arrives at the USS Wisconsin August 11, 2012 in Norfolk, Virginia. Mitt Romney will announce Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a seven term congressman, as his Vice President pick. Ryan is Chairman of the House Budget Committee and provides a strong contrast to the Obama administration on fiscal policy. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NORFOLK, Va. - Mitt Romney named Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate Saturday, ending weeks of speculation about the No. 2 slot on the GOP ticket.
The Romney campaign announced the pick through its "Mitt's VP" smart phone app early Saturday morning.
Ryan, 42, is best known as the chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of a dramatic plan to overhaul Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for senior citizens.
Romney is set to unveil his running mate here at a museum next to the U.S.S. Wisconsin, a retired battleship, before setting out on a bus tour of key swing states to highlight his economic plans for the middle class.
In an interview with NBC on Thursday, Romney said he was looking for someone with "a strength of character" and "a vision for the country that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country."
With Ryan as his running mate, Romney appears ready to have a national conversation about federal spending and the growth of entitlements with one of the GOP's leading budget authorities at his side.
Ryan, a House member since 1999, has proposed to dramatically change both Medicare and Medicaid, the programs that have been a hallmark of the nation's compact to provide health care to senior citizens and the poor
In March, Ryan led House Republicans in releasing a budget plan that would repeal President Obama's health care law, cut billions in spending and overhaul the federal tax code in order to reduce - but not eliminate - the federal deficit over the next 10 years.
Ryan said at the time that the proposal was philosophically rooted in reducing Americans' reliance on the federal government. "It's about turning our system that has become a dependent culture into an upward mobile society, getting people back onto lives of self-sufficiency," he said.
Ryan's budget plan has been widely criticized by Obama and his fellow Democrats, who contend it would "end Medicare as we know it." In an April speech, Obama called it "thinly veiled social Darwinism."
The Ryan plan would restructure Medicare for future beneficiaries to allow those 55 and younger to opt out of the system and purchase private insurance with a federal subsidy.
The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial Thursday that choosing Ryan as Romney's running mate would underscore "the nature and stakes of this election."
"More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline," the Journal editorial said.
Norfolk is the first stop in a four-day bus tour of swing states that will also include North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
Late Friday night, Romney staffers headed to the museum to set up for the announcement, closely followed by reporters hoping to catch a glimpse of something that would confirm that Ryan was the choice.
But from the dock all that could be seen was a large Romney banner that flapped in the wind and figures laboring under bright stage lights.
Jackie Kucinich and Catalina Camia, USA TODAY