Tampa, Florida: Congressman Paul Ryan, a hero to conservatives and lightning rod for Democrats, accepted the Republican nomination as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, saying the moment for President Barack Obama and his party “came and went.”
Ryan’s nationally televised speech on Wednesday, the second day of the storm-shortened Republican National Convention, was a debut of sorts for the 42-year-old from the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, who was not well known outside Washington before being tapped by Romney this month as his partner in what is expected to be a tight presidential race.
Republican delegates roared with approval as Ryan talked about his life, lauded Romney and, especially, attacked Obama. He said Obama’s presidency is “adrift.”
“Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?” Ryan said.
Ryan may be more popular with many Republicans than Romney himself. A leader in Congress, he is the architect of the party’s main plan to slash federal spending to reduce the federal deficit. Unlike Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has shifted positions on social issues, Ryan’s conservative stances are not questioned.
Democrats pounced when Romney selected Ryan, saying it showed that Romney was clearly wedded to Ryan’s proposals they claim would gut health care programs for the elderly and poor.
Ryan defended his plan Wednesday and said Democrats “have run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division is all they’ve got left.”
He said Romney would not duck difficult decisions. “After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney,” he said.
The speech came at a gathering struggling for attention as Tropical Storm Isaac cast a pall from the nearby northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The storm had threatened Florida earlier in the week and prompted Republicans to postpone Monday’s start of the convention.
Romney and Ryan were formally nominated in roll call votes Tuesday. Romney accepts his party’s nomination in a nationally televised speech Thursday night, the third and final full day of the convention.
Romney may find Ryan a tough act to follow. His youthful energy and down-to-earth appeal stands in contrast to the stiffer, more aristocratic 65-year-old Romney. He drew laughs in his speech joking about Romney’s musical tastes. “There are songs on his iPod which I’ve heard on the campaign bus — and on many hotel elevators,” he said.
Still, so far, Ryan has not changed the dynamics of the presidential race. Polls continue to show Romney and Obama in a statistical tie ahead of the November vote. The economy is the biggest issue in the race. While voters have more confidence in Romney on economic matters, they like Obama better on a personal level.
A poll by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post found Americans deeply divided about Ryan.
Traditionally, vice presidential picks have little effect on US presidential elections, though John McCain’s selection of then-Alaska Gov Sarah Palin jolted the race four years ago. Her electrifying speech was the highlight of the 2008 convention, but her poor performance in subsequent interviews left the widespread impression she was unprepared for the vice presidency.
McCain spoke Wednesday ahead of Ryan. Without mentioning Obama by name, McCain accused the president of failing to lead on defense spending and on grave international issues as well. “Sadly, for the lonely voices of dissent in Syria and Iran and elsewhere who feel forgotten in their darkness … our president is not being true to our values,” he said.
Also speaking Wednesday was Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state under President George W Bush. Rice implicitly criticised Obama’s leadership in foreign affairs: “We cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind. ”
She said Romney and Ryan “will provide an answer to the question, ‘Where does America stand?’”
The comments of Rice and McCain marked some of the few moments in which international affairs have received attention at the convention. Neither Romney nor Ryan has extensive international experience.
Opinion polls show Obama getting high marks on national security after ending the war in Iraq, drawing down the conflict in Afghanistan and ordering the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
But Romney, speaking to a veterans group in Indianapolis, said Obama “has allowed our leadership to diminish.”
“In dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved and apology where it’s not due,” he said.
Obama, campaigning before a university crowd in Virginia, declared himself unimpressed with the Republican convention.
“You can listen very carefully, very hard, and you won’t hear them offer a clear serious path forward,” he said.
Obama will be renominated when Democrats hold their convention next week in North Carolina.