June 19, 2013
Romney, Ryan hit the road in an energized Republican campaign
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan home to a tearful welcome in Wisconsin in a celebratory event that produced a flash of anger from Romney over what he considers dishonest campaigning by President Barack Obama.
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman elevated to Romney's No. 2 on Saturday, wiped away tears and choked up as he and Romney made a dramatic entrance on stage in front of a crowd of around 8,000 to the theme song of the movie, "Air Force One."
Clearly reveling in the moment as the native son come home, Ryan told them: "I'm a Wisconsinite through and through."
"My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, a little Spotted Cow ... and some Millers," he said to laughter. "I like to hunt here, I like to fish here, to snowmobile here. I even think ice fishing is interesting."
The Nov. 6 election is more than two months away, but Sunday's rally had the intensity of a typical late-October campaign event. It showed how Romney's selection of the Wisconsin congressman as his running mate has injected new energy into a campaign that had struggled to move beyond Democrats' efforts to cast Romney as a wealthy former private equity executive who cannot relate to middle-class Americans.
Romney hopes the enthusiasm produced by the No. 2 pick will generate a spark that will help him erase a lead Obama has produced in recent polls of voters.
"What a homecoming for a terrific guy," Romney told the Waukesha crowd. "I guess you think I made the right decision, the right choice? I know I did."
When a heckler tried to disrupt the event, Romney unleashed frustrations at the Obama campaign over a television ad produced by a pro-Obama group that all but suggested Romney shared some of the blame for the death of the wife of a steelworker, who lost his job and health insurance when Romney's Bain Capital bought the company.
The ad has been roundly condemned by independent fact-checkers, but the Obama campaign has not called for the ad to be pulled. While the Romney campaign has engaged in negative tactics as well, his aides felt the ad crossed a line.
"There's no question but if you follow the campaign of Barack Obama, he's going to do everything in his power to make this the lowest, meanest negative campaign in history. We're not going to let that happen. This is going to be a campaign about ideas about the future of America," Romney said angrily.
"Mr. President, take your campaign out of the gutter," he said. "Let's talk about the real issues that America faces."
Romney, 65, seemed relieved to have a sidekick to end what he has called the "two against one" dynamic of the race, with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on one side and Romney on the other.
"It's a far more compelling dynamic than just being out there on my own," Romney told reporters late Saturday.
But it also was evident that Romney's selection of Ryan - who is known for his sweeping budget plan to reduce government spending and debt by trimming taxes and revamping Medicare and other social programs - is going to raise a series of hurdles for his campaign as it sprints toward Election Day.
In choosing Ryan, Romney is all but attaching himself to Ryan's controversial budget plan, which has been blasted by Democrats who say it would dismantle popular social programs that help the elderly and the poor.
Ryan's selection also suggested that Romney is tackling a prickly task during an intense, nasty and likely close race for the White House. He is asking Americans to consider tough questions about the future of Medicare, the government-backed health insurance program for the elderly, and a range of other government programs.
During an interview that Romney and Ryan gave to CBS's Bob Schieffer on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Ryan responded to criticism of his Medicare plan by noting that it would apply only to those younger than 55.
"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida," Ryan said. "Our point is, we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger. And we think these reforms are good reforms."
Romney and Ryan will now head off in different directions, Romney to resume bus tour in Florida and Ryan goes to Iowa on Monday.