VP candidate Paul Ryan attends Pittsburgh airport rally

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Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a short speech to a cheering crowd of several hundred people at an airport rally in Moon Township this morning, pounding away at President Barack Obama's record on the economy and energy.

"With the right ideas and the right leadership we can turn this economy around," he said as the crowd cheered. The running mate of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney noted at the outset that U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey was "one of my best friends" in Congress.

He then went on to excoriate Mr. Obama's economic record, claiming that the economy is growing at a slower rate this year than last. "We're going in the wrong direction. We're not going to spend the next four years kicking the can down the road.

"You are going to help us get this country back on the right track because Pennsylvania is going to put Mitt in the White House," he said to the audience, which was gathered in a large hangar at Atlantic Aviation, the local branch of a Texas-based charter airline company.

Mr. Ryan, whose plane landed on a nearby runway, made a dramatic entrance at 11:12 a.m. as the airport hangar's huge gate slowly opened to reveal the candidate in a jacket, to the sounds of the chant, "Here we go Ryan, here we go!"

His speech ended 13 minutes later, and after shaking hands with supporters he hopped on a campaign bus and headed to Belmont, Ohio.

During his address he touched on most of the Romney campaign's key talking points.

"We can't keep spending money we just don't have," he said. "The choice is, do we limit the size of government or do we limit the growth of our economy?"

In a nod to his Western Pennsylvania audience, he declared that the president "will keep his war on coal going," claiming that just a month ago 1,200 coal jobs were lost in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

"Gas prices are higher than four years ago" he said. "Who knows what they'll be like in the next four years?"

The vice presidential candidate was joined by Sen. Pat Toomey, Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith, who is challenging incumbent Bob Casey; Keith Rothfus, who is trying to unseat Rep. Mark Critz; and Rep. Tim Murphy.

Mr. Ryan, whose last trip to the Pittsburgh area was in August, flew in from Florida, where he and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent the last two days campaigning. Florida is a state Mr. Romney must win, and polls mostly show him ahead by four points, with Ohio second in importance.

The most recent polls show Mr. Romney behind President Barack Obama by four points in Pennsylvania, which he has visited six times since clinching the nomination in the spring, although his campaign has not invested the kind of money they've targeted at states like Ohio and Virginia.

Mr. Ryan's next stop Saturday is Belmont, Ohio, where the latest Fox News poll shows Mr. Obama with a continued lead of 46 to 43 percent. The president led by seven points a month ago, according to the Fox poll.

Kelly Senkoski, 25, of Sewickley, said she'd just received her master's degree in education, but has yet to find a teaching job, which was why she came out to see Mr. Ryan.

"If Romney and Ryan are in office, I think I have a better chance of getting a job," she said.

Noel Um, 18, a freshman at CMU, came to volunteer at the Ryan rally "because I think it's really important that, as an Asian American woman, I exercise my right to vote. A lot of people in my demographic don't care, and at my school, a lot of my friends just aren't going to bother. But Obama promised change, and it hasn't happened."

During a Friday rally in Daytona Beach, Mr. Romney blasted Mr. Obama's re-election effort as the "incredible shrinking campaign." It was Mr. Romney's last appearance on the campaign trail before Monday's third and final presidential debate.

Each candidate is targeting white, working-class voters, but in heavily unionized Ohio Mr. Romney's lead is narrower -- with a 51 to 44 percent edge among no college, white voters, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.

That demographic went heavily for George W. Bush in 2004 and Sen. John McCain in 2008.

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Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com First Published October 20, 2012 2:00 PM


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