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Paul Ryan: energizing activists but can he attract everyone else?

He’s just the running mate. But Americans could be more eager to see Paul Ryan when he takes the stage Wednesday at the Republican National Convention than the man at the top of the ticket, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Ryan is the newest thing in politics right now, the still largely unknown subject of wild enthusiasm among conservatives, the target of unrelenting scorn from Democrats. In a prime-time speech Wednesday, he gets to tell his own story unfiltered by the news media. It will be a critical test, as he works to drive his party to a march-to-the-polls frenzy while not doing anything that could turn off independents and suburban moderates who could decide a close election.

Young, attractive and upbeat, the Republican vice presidential nominee easily energizes Republican activists — some of whom question Romney’s conservative credentials —largely for his blueprint to slash the federal government.

“I adore him,” gushed Kathy Hildebrand, a former math teacher and a convention delegate from Georgia. “He offers real solutions.”

But it’s precisely those solutions —policy proposals that include overhauling Medicare — that make him less popular with Democrats and moderates needed to win in November.

“His back is to the wall, frankly,” said John Zogby, an independent pollster. “He’s going to have a rough time going to the middle.” More from Anita Kumar here.

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