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Romney vs. Ryan on 4 key issues

At a joint campaign event in Michigan on Friday with running mate Paul Ryan, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made a reference to President Obama's birth certificate.

But it was something he didn't mention at this rally -- not far from Detroit -- that was almost as striking: the auto bailout, or even the U.S. auto industry.

For as many times as Romney has stepped foot in Michigan this cycle -- for either a primary or general election campaign stop -- the son of a former auto executive has made sure to mention his love for cars, and to explain his opposition to the 2008-09 actions taken across two administrations to support Chrysler and General Motors. 

But on Friday, despite Romney's home state overtures, he left out any reference to the troubled industry.

A possible reason for this omission is that Romney and Ryan have different positions on this particular issue, with Romney opposing the auto bailout and Ryan having voted for it.

It shouldn't be surprising that a presidential candidate and his running mate might not see eye to eye on every matter. After all, Romney and Ryan hail from different states, are different ages, and have different life experiences.

“No two people agree on every single issue, and we share the same principles. We apply them to our problems, and I am really excited about this,” Ryan said aboard his campaign plane Thursday night as he was flying to Michigan.

Still, there are at least four differences between Romney and Ryan -- on the auto bailout, abortion, Medicare, and the looming defense cuts -- that potentially undermine either some of the attacks Romney has made against President Obama or positions that Romney has taken.

The auto bailout
On perhaps no single issue has Romney's rhetoric and Ryan's voting record been as divergent as on the auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler: While Ryan voted in favor of a bailout in Dec. 2008, Romney -- whose eyes were already starting to focus on a second presidential bid -- wrote a New York Times op-ed headlined: “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.”

Although Romney has long pointed out he did not write the headline that accompanied the piece, its central tenet was straightforward: no bailout money for automakers. He argued instead for the carmakers to go through managed bankruptcy first and exhaust their private sector options. If that failed, the federal government could then step forward to help, but don’t throw good money after bad bailing out failing companies.

At a campaign event prior to the Michigan primary in February, Romney doubled down on his opposition to the bailout, telling an audience in Grand Rapids that President Obama effectively handed over the automakers to the UAW union following the bailout. And he accused the president of "crony capitalism" for intervening in the market -- an intervention which Ryan supported.

In Janesville, the town Ryan was born and raised, there was once a big GM plant that has since been put on standby. Interestingly, Ryan blamed Obama for shuttering it, though it closed during the tail end of the Bush administration.

“A lot of my high school buddies worked at that GM plant. That GM plant was shut down in 2009.  I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open. One more broken promise,” Ryan told the crowd in North Canton, Ohio.

Romney vowed throughout the campaign to select a running mate who opposes abortion rights, and he did just that in tapping Ryan.

But after Rep. Todd Akin's controversial remarks on abortion and rape, Democrats have seized on a clear difference between the two men: Romney opposes abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at stake, while Ryan’s single exception for abortion has been when life of the mother is at risk.

What's more, in 2011, Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin, "The Sanctity of Human Life Act," which declared that every life begins at fertilization. Critics argue that such "personhood" legislation would outlaw all abortions -- even the cases of rape and incest.

Ryan now says he is “comfortable” allowing exemptions for rape and incest.

“I'm proud of my record” on abortion, Ryan told reporters on Aug. 22, just two days after the Akin comments were made. “Mitt Romney is going to be president, and the president sets policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. I'm comfortable with it because it's a good step in the right direction."

As soon as Romney selected Ryan as his running mate, it elevated Medicare to a key campaign issue. The reason why: Ryan's budget substantially transforms Medicare by giving future seniors a voucher or premium support, which can be used to purchase private health insurance or access to traditional Medicare.

Romney and Republicans have countered by accusing President Obama's health care law of making $716 billion cuts to Medicare.

“My plan stays the same. No adjustments, no changes, no savings. The president’s plan cuts Medicare,” Romney said on Aug. 16, scribbling on a white board with a dry erase marker as he spoke. “Excuse me, well let’s see, I’ve got, there we go, by $716 billion. Cut.”

But there is one hitch: Ryan's budget includes the same $716 billion in cuts.

Yet Ryan has adopted this same GOP attack on Medicare.

“Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for Obamacare. Medicare should be used to be the promise that it made to our current seniors. Period. End of Story,” Ryan said in Florida last week. ”Here is what Mitt Romney and I will do: We will end the raid of Medicare. We will restore the promise of this program, and we will make sure that this board of bureaucrats will not mess with my mom’s health care or your mom’s health care.”

“We want this debate on Medicare. We want this debate, we need this debate and we are going to win this debate,” Ryan added to reporters on his plane this week.

The defense sequester
Romney has attacked Obama over the looming, automatic defense cuts –- “the sequester” -– that were contained in the Budget Control Act that Congress passed to avert the debt-ceiling crisis.

But Ryan voted for the Budget Control Act that contained those very defense cuts, if Congress couldn’t agree on a compromise deficit-reduction deal. 

A Ryan spokesman says Obama should be blamed on the looming defense cuts, because he abdicated his responsibility to bring Congress together to achieve a bipartisan deal. (Of course, that thinking cuts both ways.) “The president instead went AWOL on the campaign trail and the result is the devastating defense cuts that the president insisted on,” Ryan spokesman Michael Steel has said.