Tampa, Fla.—While he was widely viewed as a party centrist during his three terms in Congress, former Second District Congressman Rob Simmons exhibited no qualms Wednesday with the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – a strong conservative and Tea Party favorite – as his party's vice presidential nominee.
Speaking hours before Ryan's nomination was to be formalized, Simmons — a Connecticut delegate to this week's Republican National Convention here — noted in an interview that he had served for six years in the U.S. House with Ryan.
He described his former colleague as "a very smart guy, very compassionate, and a good speaker who knows more about the subject than Joe Biden."
Simmons' comments came two days after Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, had said other governors — including Republicans — share his fears that Ryan's budget proposal, if enacted, "would be a massive shift of obligations to states … at a time that we can't handle that kind of shift." Malloy contended that, privately, "there's a lot of consternation amongst all governors across party lines."
But Simmons brushed aside such concerns. "To say that there is something dangerous about the Ryan plan is ridiculous," he said.
At the same time, Simmons appeared to stop short of embracing the Ryan budget plan – which has been hammered by the Democrats for its provision eventually to replace the current Medicare system with a voucher scheme. Rather, Simmons suggested it is a starting point for discussions of dealing with the federal deficit.
"The [Ryan] budget plan is nothing more than a plan, but at least it is a plan that is detailed enough so that we can discuss it," he said. "They say it's going to get rid of Social Security – no, it's not. They say it's going to take all the money out of Medicare – no, it's not.".
"They say it's going to do these terrible things. But it's only a plan. To plan a trip is not to take a trip."
Meanwhile, both Simmons and another former congressional colleague – ex-Rep. Christopher Shays, also a delegate in the Connecticut delegation – both expressed confidence in the November prospects for the ticket of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Ryan.
"I really believe this Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win, and win easily," said Shays.
Saying he believes that the upcoming election is probably the most important one in which he has ever been involved, Simmons declared: "I am not here for myself. I am here for my kids and for the future of my country." He added that today's young people are worried because of unemployment and a weak economy, and that they should be more involved in politics.
"Mitt Romney knows how to turn things around. He started with his business career, he did it with the Olympics, he did it with Massachusetts, and now he has to do it with America," said Simmons.
"He needs to run on hope and change, which is exactly what Barack Obama ran on four years ago," added Shays.
Closer to home, Shays – who overwhelmingly lost a bid this year to Linda McMahon for the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman – said he believes McMahon can win over the Democratic nominee, Rep. Christopher Murphy.
Murphy "is not what the country wants or needs," Shays said a day after a new Quinnipiac University poll showed McMahon with 49 percent to 46 percent for Murphy – a difference slightly larger than the poll's 2.6-point margin of error. The survey of 1,472 likely voters was conducted last Wednesday through Sunday.
McMahon is not attending this week's Republican convention, during which the Connecticut delegation is being housed at the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island, Fla. – an upscale community adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico that is nearly 30 miles from the convention site in downtown Tampa.
Asked why McMahon is not here, campaign spokesman Todd Abrajano responded by email statement that she is focused on campaigning and meeting voters face to face.