RALEIGH — Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan inspired a crowd of a several thousand people Wednesday afternoon with the message that GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has the experience and vision to fix the country.
At the rally at the Raleigh headquarters of SMT, a sheet-metal fabrication company, the Wisconsin congressman extended the GOPs pro-business campaign theme, with a We Did Build It banner hanging behind him.
The speech was a mix of criticism of President Barack Obama, a description of what the campaign calls a plan for a stronger middle class and a need to reapply the founding principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise and self-determination.
Our rights come from nature and God, not from government, he said.
Ryan contrasted the records and ideas of Romney and Obama.
During the Obama presidency, the nations credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history, Ryan said, while when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, the states credit rating was upgraded.
Ryan, who has been in Congress 14 years, said partisan bitterness in Washington over the past four years has been the worst he has experienced. By contrast, Romney during his tenure as governor was able to lead a Democratic state and balance its budget without raising taxes, Ryan said.
Ryan got one of his biggest cheers after promising that a Romney-Ryan administration would repeal the federal health care law.
What kind of country do we want to be? Ryan asked. What kind of people do we want to be?
Free, someone in the crowd shouted.
Sitting in the warehouse after the speech, Raleigh resident Andrew Cook said Obama was not prepared for the challenge of leading the country. Cook , 45, carried a copy of The Amateur by Ed Klein, a book critical of the Obama presidency.
Romney has a level of competence from a managerial standpoint, from the business standpoint, that I dont think Obama can match, Cook said.
The Ryan plan
U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, was in Raleigh on Wednesday to counter Ryans appearance.
Ryan is House budget chairman, and Democrats have focused their criticism on his proposed budget.
I think its important to tell the whole truth of what the Ryan plan would do, said Van Hollen, during an interview at The Raleigh Times restaurant.
If you wade through all the numbers, you will find that the choice it makes is to provide another round of windfall tax cuts to the very wealthy, people like Mitt Romney, at the expense of everyone else, including seniors on Medicare who will pay more, including middle income tax payers, who will pay higher taxes so that the very wealthy can pay less taxes.
All of this in service to a failed trickle-down economic theory that we tried for eight years during the Bush administration and yet failed, Van Hollen continued. At the end of that eight year period, we had a net loss of private-sector jobs. The only thing that went up was the deficit. So why in the world would we want to return to failed economic strategy at the expense of the rest of the country?
Looking for solutions
But Chad Buch, 25, who just received a masters degree from East Carolina University, attended the Ryan rally and is ready to vote for the Republican ticket because he likes its proposal to simplify the tax code.
An unaffiliated voter who leans conservative, Buch is living with his parents in Raleigh and looking for work. He expected to have some job offers after getting his graduate degree in urban and regional planning, but all he managed was a summer internship that ended last week. Some of his friends are in the same boat, Buch said, living with their parents and lucky if they work at their families businesses or in entry-level jobs.
Buch said he isnt certain whether a Romney presidency would improve job prospects, but he has hopes.
Im looking for solutions here in November, he said.
Ryan was scheduled to attend a Raleigh fundraiser later Wednesday and to campaign in Fayetteville on Thursday.