U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, works out daily with Rep. Paul Ryan as part of a group of about a half-dozen members of Congress who exercise together.
"We have grown closer over the past three or four years," he said. "When you are together for 90 minutes daily, we talk about everything -- family life, politics, legislation, world issues, sports."
With a majority of Americans saying their top issues are jobs and the economy, the business and economic experience that Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan bring to the ticket will be invaluable, Mr. Murphy said. "Nobody is more knowledgeable about the federal budget than Paul Ryan," he said. "He knows the problems with the loopholes and the cronyism, and he wants to deal with it in a way that gets our deficit under control."
Mr. Murphy described Mr. Ryan as a hopeful, optimistic member of Congress who "talks about opportunities and how things can be made better."
Mr. Ryan's voucher, or "premium support," plan for future Medicare recipients would work similar to the way Medicare supplemental and drug benefit plans work.
"You would get to shop for a plan that suits you best," Mr. Murphy said. The resulting competition among companies can drive prices down.
"I certainly support his idea of getting government spending under control," he said. "The deficit needs to be at the core of our debate in the race for the presidency ... anything else is a distraction from the issue at hand."
Pennsylvania will be one of the battleground states for President Barack Obama and Mr. Romney, and Mr. Ryan will talk about issues such as energy and health care that are important to the state's voters, Mr. Murphy said. "He is brilliant and well studied -- people admire his intellect and analytical skills."
Local Democrats have also expressed excitement regarding the pick, but for much different reasons.
"He wants to cut Medicare and Social Security on new recipients and he'd be cutting those entitlements at their expense while providing significant tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the country," said state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill. "It reinforces differences that have already been articulated in the election cycle. There's going to be a very clear choice in this election and I think Gov. Romney has helped to do that."
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said Mr. Ryan's budget proposal cuts taxes for the top 1 percent of the country by closing unspecified tax loopholes, which he believes will come from middle-class incentives such as deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
"If this is Gov. Romney's prescription, then I think it's not good news for the middle class and working poor in the country," he said.
Former U.S. Rep. Phil English, a Republican from Erie, called the selection of Mr. Ryan "a brilliant stroke" by Mr. Romney.
"Paul Ryan is one of the party's leading intellectual leaders on policies where the Romney administration will have to undertake serious reform -- tax reform, entitlement reform and fiscal reform. He is battle hardened in how to offer a conservative alternative to policies that have largely failed. He is the perfect candidate to run on these issues to appeal to the upper Midwest and Western Pennsylvania."
Mr. English also said a "Romney-Ryan team will be an enormously formidable ticket ... that unites the party with a very broad appeal.
Mr. Ryan's age -- 42 -- should help the Republicans connect with young voters, Mr. English said.
"Young people just graduating from school are facing the worst headwinds since the end of the Great Depression or World War II. There are more young people unemployed, underemployed or just going back to school. A guy in his early 40s brings enormous appeal to youth voters."
Republicans won't mind talking about entitlement reform during the campaign, Mr. English said. "Rep. Ryan has been thinking outside the box, and anyone who attacks his proposals should offer ideas of their own. ... Republicans want to be thrown into that briar patch."
Former Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Bradford Woods, said Mr. Ryan "is one of the few people I could say are naturally talented as a policy maker and public speaker. ... Some people call him 'wonky,' but he has a genuine interest in people and in solving problems."
While devoted to his job, he would turn down requests for weekend events, she said. "He is committed to his wife and children. When his work was done in Washington, he goes home."
She served with him on the House Ways and Means Committee. Entitlement reform and deficit reduction are among the main issues facing the country.
"If we don't address these problems now, they will get beyond fixing. Mitt Romney chose the one person out there most qualified to help him fix those problems," she said. "He has come forward with real plans to solve those problems."
Mr. Ryan was also able to work with people with different ideas. "He was not unwilling to listen to other solutions."
She called Mr. Ryan a groundbreaking pick: a young political leader who is well prepared and experienced.
"It's nice to be really happy about something in politics," she said.
Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 412-263-1159. Deborah M. Todd contributed. First Published August 12, 2012 4:00 AM