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GOP budget proposal may define campaign

WASHINGTON -- The new debt-slashing budget plan pushed by House Republicans heated up as a presidential campaign issue Sunday, as the proposal's architect, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, sparred with top Democrats over its political fallout and downplayed the possibility that he could be tapped as a vice presidential candidate.

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe dismissed the GOP plan Sunday as "a lot of candy, not a lot of vegetables," and alleged that it would be "rubber-stamped" as law if leading Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is elected.

"This is really the Romney-Ryan plan," Plouffe said, adding that its mix of across-the-board tax cuts and stiff budget cuts "showers huge tax cuts on millionaires and billionaires paid for by seniors and veterans."

Ryan tried to tamp down speculation that he could be tapped for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket, although who will be the nominee is far from settled.

"I would have to consider it, but it's not something I'm even thinking about right now because right -- I think our job in Congress is pretty important," Ryan said. "And what we believe we owe the country is, if we don't like the direction the president is taking us, which we don't, we owe them a specific sharp contrast and a different path that they can select in November. And doing this in Congress is really important."

The House GOP debt-reduction plan, unveiled last week with minimal Democratic congressional support, is quickly sharpening as a line of division for the fall campaign, pitting GOP and Tea Party pressure for a reined-in budget against White House and Democratic party alarms about a weakened Medicare system and tax relief for the wealthy.

"This is a sharp, clear difference with two different futures," Ryan said.

Despite growing signs that the U.S economy is struggling back to life, Ryan threw down a marker for the fall national election, saying that the GOP plan is the only alternative to Obama's "path of debt and decline."

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