Striding onto a stage flanked by a roll of coiled steel, Rep. Paul Ryan twirled a Terrible Towel, beaming as the crowd took the cue and chanted, to a Heinz Field cadence, "Here we go Ryan, here we go ..."
In his first of two campaign stops in Pennsylvania Tuesday, the Republican vice presidential choice criticized President Barack Obama and pledged that a Romney administration would tame the federal deficit and restore the nation's prosperity.
Ryan assails Obama policies in campaign stop
Congressman Paul Ryan, the GOP's Terrible Towel-waving vice presidential hopeful, took aim at President Obama's policies in a campaign appearance in Carnegie. (Video by Andrew Rush; 8/21/2012)
Protests greet Paul Ryan
Democrats staged a protest in response to a campaign appearance today by Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan. (Video by Bob Donaldson; edited by Melissa Tkach; 8/21/2012)
A week before the opening of the convention that will officially ratify him as Mitt Romney's running mate, the Wisconsin congressman echoed his new partner's mantra that the president was trying to impose a government-centered economy that would undermine private enterprise.
Mr. Ryan spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of roughly 1,500 on a makeshift stage at Beaver Steel Services in Rosslyn Farms. Behind him, the GOP organizers had decorated the plant's wall with the words, "We did build it," their running taunt at a quote from Mr. Obama in which he noted the role of community and government in creating the conditions for business success.
"Tony, you built this business," he said to Tony Treser, the plant owner.
Playing on another of Mr. Obama's rhetorical gifts to his opponents, he drew the crowd's cheers as he said, "Hey, I'm a Catholic deer hunter, I am happy to cling to my guns and my religion."
Offering another blast from the political past, he contended that Mr. Obama had offered a glimpse of his governing philosophy four years ago when he told Joe Wurzelbacher, aka, "Joe the plumber," that the government should "spread the wealth around."
Mr. Romney's choice of the House Budget Committee chairman as his running mate lifted the profile of Medicare and entitlement spending in a race previously dominated by a debate over the slack pace of the economic recovery. Mr. Ryan renewed the GOP attack on the administration's health care legislation and complained that "President Obama treated Medicare like a piggy bank in funding Obamacare ... Medicare should be there for Medicare and not for Obamacare."
He referred to the fact that the health care legislation cuts $716 billion from the anticipated rate of growth in Medicare spending, savings targeted from fees to health care providers. Mr. Ryan did not mention the fact that he has sponsored two House budgets that take the same amount from the growth of the seniors' health care program as a means of controlling the deficit.
Campaigning outside of Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Mr. Obama criticized another section of the Ryan budget proposals, one that would have cut more than $100 million from the Department of Education. While the Ryan budgets did not specify exactly where those cuts would fall, Democrats contend that would necessitate drastic cuts in Pell Grants and other higher education funding.
Mr. Ryan denounced the president's attacks on Medicare and other issues, arguing to the crowd that, "All he has left is to distort and divide and distract this country and we're not going to fall for it."
Mr. Ryan carried a similar message across the state later, as he spoke to a still larger crowd in the crucial suburbs of Philadelphia.
Mr. Ryan stuck to his message -- on Medicare, business, even religion and deer-hunting -- at an afternoon event at a helicopter museum in West Chester, west of Philadelphia, where he told a large outdoor crowd that the Republican ticket would offer solutions as well as point out problems.
"We are not just going to talk about how the other guys have failed," he said.
The crowd seemed like they were already sold, but he pitched Mr. Romney anyway as a candidate with the perfect business background to help American enterprise.
Before the event, Chuck Ritter, a self-employed builder from Pottstown, described himself as a reluctant supporter of Mr. Romney but a great fan of Mr. Ryan. Mr. Ritter, 53, said the Wisconsin congressman seems like a rare Washington politician who understands how budgets work.
"I've got to give Romney a lot of credit for picking him," Mr. Ritter said. "This one was a gutsy call, but I think it's going to put him well over the top."
Mr. Ryan was bidding for the electoral votes of a state where the incumbent has held a relatively narrow but consistent lead. In the average of survey results compiled by RealClearPolitics, the president holds a 6.5 percentage point advantage over his GOP challenger.
As more than 1,000 GOP partisans streamed toward the Beaver Steel event, about 40 Democrats were outside, staging a counter demonstration denouncing the GOP proposals.
"We want to make sure that the message gets out there: For the middle class, for working people and for jobs, President Obama and Joe Biden are the answers," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
"If the Ryan budget had been enacted we would have lost 165 clean energy projects here in within the state," said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, another Democrat. "This is not the direction Pennsylvania needs to go."
The Republican ticket got a warmer reception inside the steel warehouse.
While waiting for Mr. Ryan's entry, Allen Simon, the owner of Datatel Resources in Monaca, Beaver County, said he supports the GOP candidates because of what he sees as better business acumen.
"First of all, you can't create jobs and be against jobs creators," he said. "I own my own business and right now, the way things, are ... I just don't know what to expect."
Standing a few feet away, Trina Rubano of Green Tree said she would be voting for Mr. Romney because "I'm looking for a better cost of energy, then we would have the money to spend on other things."
She said she preferred the GOP team on energy issues because, "They're for coal, and we have a lot of that here."region - electionspresident
This version corrects the spellin of the owner of Beaver Steel Services. Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562. Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-787-2141. Staff writer Tim McNulty contributed to this report. Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562. Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-787-2141. Staff writer Tim McNulty contributed to this report. First Published August 22, 2012 4:00 AM