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Romney and Ryan looking like running mates as they campaign

The business marketer noticed how plainly they talked about the nation's mounting deficit problems. The boat parts supplier came away convinced that together they could fix the economy. The pharmacy clerk, well, she observed how when each of them spoke, the other was smiling -- a kind of respectful smile.

And after seeing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan trade compliments, banter about the Boy Scouts and take turns talking taxes and debt, these three Wisconsin Republican voters arrived at the same conclusion: This could be the ticket.

If Romney's win in Wisconsin strengthened his claim to the Republican presidential nomination, then his five straight days of campaigning with Ryan amounted to a tryout for the youthful congressman as a potential vice presidential running mate.

Since Ryan endorsed Romney last Friday, he has been at the candidate's side at every turn -- introducing him before formal speeches, vouching for him at town hall meetings and joining him as they eyed cherry pie, picked up fried cheese curds and handed out sub sandwiches.

Along the way, Romney's aides were sizing Ryan up. And although chief strategist Stuart Stevens waved off any talk of the two forming a national ticket as irresponsibly premature, he did say they got along well behind the scenes and noted their "chemistry" on the stump.

To some Republicans, Ryan's positive attributes are obvious. Where some conservatives see Romney as an ideological squish, they consider Ryan not only a conservative of conviction but one of the movement's intellectual champions. Where Romney, 65, is a private equity patrician from Boston, Ryan, 42, spent his teenage years living off Social Security benefits in blue-collar Janesville after his father died prematurely of a heart attack.

All year, Romney has struggled to connect with working-class voters, but Ryan showed how he might help as he introduced Romney at a forum Saturday in Pewaukee. Ryan talked casually about having been on "a road to opportunity" when he flipped burgers at a McDonald's as a teenager, sold bologna -- "real bologna, by the way" -- for Oscar Mayer and waited tables to help pay back his student loans.

"Anybody fill up gas lately?" Ryan asked. "I mean, I filled up my truck last night, and I couldn't even get it to full because it cut me off at $100 -- the credit card wouldn't even let me buy any more gas. It's ridiculous."

The Romney-Ryan road show did more than stoke the "veepstakes," Washington's favorite quadrennial parlor game. It also cemented Romney's embrace of Ryan's controversial agenda as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

President Obama made clear in a speech Tuesday that he would campaign for re-election against Ryan's budget proposal and tie Romney to it. Labeling the plan "radical," Obama said it would pit the poor against the wealthy in a form of "social Darwinism."

Romney, meanwhile, unleashed a strong attack on Obama's truthfulness Wednesday, accusing him of running a "hide-and-seek" re-election campaign designed to distract voters from his first-term record while denying them information about his plans for a second.

A day after recording three primary victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Romney, addressing an audience of newspaper editors and publishers, offered a rebuttal of sorts to Obama, who spoke from the same stage Tuesday.

Referring to Obama telling Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev last week he'd have more "flexibility" to negotiate on missile defense after his election, Romney asked: "On what other issues will he state his true position only after the election is over?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.