LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Earlier this morning, we had Democratic reaction to the VP pick. I spoke about Mitt Romney's choice with Maryland congressman Chris Van Hollen, who, along with Ryan - who is on the House Budget Committee with Congressman Ryan.
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Morning. It's great to be with you.
WERTHEIMER: Now, I wonder if you could tell me what you think of this choice. You've worked closely with Paul Ryan.
HOLLEN: Well, I like Paul personally, and I've enjoyed our very sharp, but always civil debates in the Budget Committee. And those debates are about the important choices that we face, and in making this choice, Mitt Romney has sent a very clear signal that he supports an economic agenda that helps people like Mitt Romney at the rest of the country - at the expense of the rest of the country.
Because what the Republican budget does - and it was designed by Congressman Ryan - is it provides another round of big tax breaks for folks at the very, very top at the expense of everybody else, at the expense of seniors on Medicare, at the expense of very important investments in our kids' education and in our economic future, and at the expense of middle-income taxpayers.
So this clearly sharpens the debate in a way that I think will reveal very clearly that Mitt Romney wants an America that helps people like him, but at the expense of everybody else.
WERTHEIMER: So did you hear anything in the speeches this morning that sort of set off some bells for you about things that you would imagine you and other Democrats will be talking about?
HOLLEN: Well, sure, because what we have is really just a recycled version of the failed trickle-down economic policies we saw during the Bush administration - again, the underlying idea here is that somehow providing another round of windfall tax breaks to very wealthy people will trickle down and lift everybody else up.
We know the end of that movie. It didn't work. We tried it. At the end of the eight years of the Bush administration, millions of Americans had lost their jobs. The economy tanked. And we - and I don't think anybody really wants to go back to that failed agenda.
You can dress it up. You can soup it up. You can call it something else, but that strategy failed, as opposed to a strategy of trying to invest in our - in the middle class and have an economy built from the middle out, not this failed idea of a top-down economy.
WERTHEIMER: Now, I wonder. The Obama campaign must've been breathing a bit easier in the last few days because there was a pop in the polls for the president. And even some very conservative polls - like Fox News polls, for example - were suggesting that the president was in better shape than had been previously thought.
Do you think this pops Mr. Romney back up? It puts him back up into a completely equal contention?
HOLLEN: No, I don't. And I'm sure that the president, the Obama campaign, are taking nothing for granted despite the obvious good news in the polls. Politically, the choice of Paul Ryan is throwing a bone to the right wing ideologues in the Republican Party. It's essentially telling independent voters to take a hike. So what this choice tells us is that Mitt Romney is working very hard to shore up excitement among the most right wing parts of the Republican Party.
WERTHEIMER: Mr. Van Hollen?
WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for this. We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.
HOLLEN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
WERTHEIMER: Chris Van Hollen represents Maryland's 8th district, and is a member of the Democratic leadership in the House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.