YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan received several standing ovations from a crowd of about 500 Saturday at Youngstown State University as he doubled down on positions he has held on key issues for much of his political career and throughout the campaign.
"We have a big choice to make," said Mr. Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin.
"This isn't an ordinary election. We're not just deciding who's going to be president for the next four years. We're deciding what kind of country are we going to have for the next generation."
Mr. Ryan, who brought his wife and three children along, told the audience of strong similarities between Youngstown and his own hometown of Janesville, Wis., both blue-collar factory towns.
"Our part of Wisconsin is just like this part of Ohio," he said. "We need a strong manufacturing base in America if we want a strong middle class in America. We need to make more things in America and sell them overseas if we want to make sure we can keep good jobs and prosperity going in this country."
For more than an hour, the seven-term congressman and running mate of presidential candidate Mitt Romney berated the Obama administration for what he termed out-of-control government spending. He used PowerPoint presentations to illustrate the nation's growing debt and increased reliance on foreign investors.
"The president had his chance. He made his choices," Mr. Ryan said. "He came in with one-party rule, able to do anything of his own choosing, and just look at where we are now. Forty-three million Americans are struggling for work today. We can't keep accepting this as the new normal."
On the heels of Mr. Ryan's televised debate Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden, his supporters seemed eager to build on the momentum. In the minutes before he took the stage, speakers praised him for doing a great job under pressure and not laughing or interrupting, as Mr. Biden had.
Several supporters inside the town hall meeting held placards reading "The Mahoning Valley Believes." However, on the streets outside the campus, protesters marched with signs that said, "Hands Off My Medicare."
As the 2012 presidential campaign comes down to the wire, Ohio has become a battleground state. Both campaigns have been there several times in recent weeks, appealing to blue-collar voters who have historically sided with Democrats.
Carolyn Pytlik, 62, of Vienna, Ohio, said she support the Romney/Ryan ticket because it understands economic principles such as spending less than one makes.
"They want less government and more personal responsibility," said Mrs. Pytlik, a nurse anesthetist. "What they say makes sense. We can't keep spending money we don't have."
Mr. Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee and is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax policy, Social Security, health care and trade laws. Rep. Ryan was the driving force behind the Bush administration's unsuccessful push to privatize Social Security. He supports sweeping changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, opening Medicaid to more private competition through a voucher system.
Tim Grant: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1591. First Published October 14, 2012 4:00 AM