LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Linda Chavez is the chair of the Center for Equal Opportunity, and is a conservative columnist and political commentator. And we reached her by telephone. She's in Colorado.
Linda Chavez, hello.
LINDA CHAVEZ: Hi. It's great to be with you.
WERTHEIMER: Are you pleased with this choice?
CHAVEZ: Well, I'm very pleased, as a conservative. I think this is going to energize the discussion about important issues. There's just simply no question that our economy is not headed in the right direction, and that the only way to really turn it around is to have a serious debate about the role of government and about the growth in the entitlement programs which really puts us on a course that will lead us in the direction that we now see in Europe.
And so I think Paul Ryan's budget, Paul Ryan being on the ticket is going to make this really an exciting campaign. It was, I think in many ways, a risky choice. I predicted yesterday that it was going to be Rob Portman who'd be the selection. But I think Mitt Romney really has taken on a campaign now that is going to not just be about who you're against - which is President Obama - but also what the Republican Party means in terms of the direction the country is going in.
WERTHEIMER: Now, you work with lots of - with demographics in your professional life. I want to ask you some demographic questions. Suburbanites, women in the 30s and 50s, what do you think they're going to think about this?
CHAVEZ: Well, you know, I think Paul Ryan is a very appealing person to that demographic because he's very positive. I think one of the things that - you know, we traditionally expect our vice presidential candidates to be the hatchet man. I think that goes back to Richard Nixon, when he was the vice president for President Eisenhower.
But I really do believe that women in particular are very turned off by negative campaigning. And frankly, President Obama - who campaigned on trying to bring people together, bringing in a kind of new tone to politics - has been extraordinarily negative in this campaign. And I think Paul Ryan's optimistic and, you know, not making personal attacks - he's never, ever run a negative campaign - I think that's going to be very appealing to that demographic.
WERTHEIMER: What about the way in which the Romney-Ryan team will be handling the issue of healthcare? That's a very important issue for women voters, especially older women.
CHAVEZ: Well, I think that's true, but, you know, everybody keeps talking about the changes that Paul Ryan has proposed for Medicare. What he's really trying to do is save Medicare. He's trying to put it on a path to be sustainable for future generations, and none of the changes that he's proposed - even if they were to be enacted exactly as they've now been proposed - would do anything for people who are 55 years old or older.
So states like Florida - which have large populations of elderly voters - their Medicare isn't going to change one whit, even if the Paul Ryan plan were to go in effect tomorrow. But it will put it on a path that allows younger people to have some guarantee that they're actually going to have Medicare.
WERTHEIMER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So do you have any sort of little twinges that, gosh, it would've been nice if somebody like Senator Rubio could've gotten on the ticket, a Latino representative on the ticket?
CHAVEZ: Well, I am still worried about the Latino vote. I still think it's going to be very critical to the Republicans. One good thing about Paul Ryan is I don't recall him being part of the sort of anti-immigrant lobby within the House. That hasn't been his issue. And because he's very positive, I think he can talk to that population much better.
CHAVEZ: That's still going to be a hurdle for the Republicans.
WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for talking to us.
CHAVEZ: Great to be with you, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: Linda Chavez joined us by telephone from Colorado. She is the chair of the Center for Equal Opportunity. She's also a conservative columnist and a political commentator. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.