By Ryan Ekvall and M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter
WAUKESHA – It seemed as if every Republican in Wisconsin was crammed into the Waukesha County Exposition Center Sunday night to welcome presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his newly picked running mate, the Badger State’s own 1st District Congressman Paul Ryan.
The audience surpassed that of Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory rally, also held at the Expo Center in June, as thousands of Romney-Ryan supporters stood shoulder to shoulder outside the facility for what was labeled a homecoming.
A Wisconsin who’s who of GOP heavyweights – from U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to the Fitzgerald brothers, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, a U.S. Senate candidate, and former Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald – revved up the Republican faithful before favorite son Ryan held the floor.
As he has done so often over seven terms in the House, Ryan clearly laid out his limited-government vision, asserting what has become abundantly clear since Romney announced his vice presidential choice Saturday morning near the U.S.S. Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va.
“So we have a big choice to make,” he said.
“And if we look at the path that we’re on, if we look at all of the things that the president has been doing – more government, more regulations, the promise of a lot more taxes on successful small businesses … (I)f this president is going to do these kinds of things in a very difficult, tough election year, imagine what he would do if he never has to face the voters again.”
“You know what? We’re not going to find out,” the would-be VP said to a roar of applause.
Ryan, the self-described policy wonk, demonstrated he could hold his own with a microphone, repeating points he’s made at campaign stop over the past day and a half.
“(The United States) is the only country founded on an idea, it’s very special …Our rights come from nature and God, not from our government.”
Romney played the home town crowd. They loved it.
“I guess you think I made the right decision, the right choice?” Romney asked the crowd, which erupted in cheers.
Romney has received a lot of love from the GOP’s biggest names, including some tea party stalwarts – just what the doctor ordered for a Republican presidential candidate with a moderate political record, whose conservative credentials have been repeatedly questioned by the right.
Pols and pundits agree: Ryan is the kind of “bold choice” that shores up the GOP conservative base.
“Every American and every American ally abroad should be heartened by Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said in a release. “Congressman Ryan deeply understands that American leadership in foreign policy makes for a more peaceful world and a safer, more prosperous America.”
Democrats, meanwhile, licked their chops, rolling out a campaign to color Ryan and what they see as the congressman’s draconian budget plan as an assault on low-to-middle-income Americans.
President Barack Obama at a campaign stop in Chicago Sunday made his first public comment on his presumptive challenger’s VP pick. Obama described Paul Ryan as a “decent man, a family man, an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision. But it’s a vision I fundamentally disagree with,” the president said, as quoted in the Washington Post.
Obama ramped up the class warfare talk, seemingly following talking points from Democratic surrogates on the Sunday morning political TV talk show menagerie.
“They all believe that if you get rid of more regulations for big corporations and give more tax breaks to the wealthy, it will lead to jobs and prosperity for everyone else,” the president said in the Washington Post piece. “That’s what they’re proposing, where they’ll take us if they win. That’s not speculation; it’s on their Web site, in their budget that House Republicans voted for repeatedly.”
Liberal group Wisconsin Jobs Now! planned a protest at the R&R homecoming to “get Paul Ryan reacquainted with REAL Wisconsinites.”
“Tell ‘1% Romney’ and his new running mate how their tax breaks for millionaires and plans to gut Medicare hurt the people who need help the most,” a Wisconsin Jobs Now! email sent Sunday morning stated.
One protester planted in the Romney/Ryan rally crowd took the opportunity to scream words inaudible from the press rafters. They may as well have been heresies in a church service, as the crowd around the protester drowned him out with a flood of ‘USA! USA!’ chants.
Police escorted the man away as Romney pretended not to notice – reminiscent of Walker’s state of the state address in January, in which the governor plodded on with his speech, even-toned as protester after protester tried to shout him down from the Assembly gallery.
“This is a critical time for the country,” Romney said. “You’re here tonight to celebrate the selection of an extraordinary guy to be our nominee for vice president, but you also know this is a time of great seriousness for the nation. We have 23 million people out of work.”
Another protester heckled the presidential candidate. This time, Romney answered back.
“You see, young man, this group here is respectful of other people’s rights to be heard,” Romney said. “And you ought to find yourself a different place to be disruptive, because here we believe in listening to people with dignity and respect.”
Romney, more fiery than in any of his previous Wisconsin speeches, trained his fire on Obama and a Democratic campaign Romney asserts has wallowed in the mud.
“Mr. President, take your campaign out of the gutter. Let’s talk about the real issues that America faces,” Romney said. “People in America are hurting right now. The middle class is struggling right now. Incomes have dropped by $4,000 per family under this president. Health care premiums have gone up by $2,500. Utility costs are up. Gasoline prices are up. People are having a hard time.
“They want to know if America is going to come back. It is, if it gets new leadership.”
He then gave the Badger State GOP faithful their marching orders.
“You’re going to help us win the White House in November. We’re counting on Wisconsin, let’s get it done.”