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Romney: Ryan's 'career ambition' not in Washington

Mooresville, NC - Preempting criticisms that will likely be lobbed by Democrats through November, Mitt Romney defended Paul Ryan's 14-year career in Congress by saying it wasn't his "career ambition."

"That is not what he wanted to do," Romney told a cheering crowd of more than 1500 at the NASCAR Technical Institute. "He became concerned about what was happening in the country and wanted to get America back on track."

"So he put aside the plans he had for his career and said I'm going to go and serve," Romney continued. "And he's done that and he's put the country and policies to get America right again ahead of ambition."

Romney has portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, heading to D.C. to fix the system. His major selling point to voters is his ability to fix the "broken" economy because of his career in the private sector - both at Bain Capital, where he started an incredibly successful private equity firm, and in turning around the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics after they were marred by scandal.

Ryan, who won his seat in 1998 at the age of 28 and will be running this year for his 8th term as a Wisconsin congressman, seems to muddy that message. He has spent at least a third of his life intimately involved with public policy - either as a congressman or working for a think tank headed by Jack Kemp.

The decision to paint Ryan as anything but a career politician seems to have began Saturday. While introducing him, Romney said in prepared remarks, "Paul Ryan works in Washington - but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin."

Romney, for his part, was governor of Massachusetts for four years, and ran an unsuccessful bid for Senate in 1994 against then Senator Ted Kennedy. But his relative little time in national politics provides cover for his claims.