Thursday 30 August 2012
Last Update 30 August 2012 6:46 am
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 Wednesday, saying the moment for President Barack Obama’s Democrats “came and went.”
Ryan’s nationally televised speech on 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. Though a leader on budget policy in Congress, Ryan was not well-known outside Washington when tapped by Romney this month.
The selection of Ryan, author of a plan to reduce the federal deficit, excited Republicans skeptical of Romney’s commitment to conservative principles. But Democrats pounced, saying Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was now clearly wedded to Ryan’s proposals to cut spending by revamping health care programs for the elderly and poor.
To the adoring cheers of the Republican faithful, Ryan 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 the difficult decisions needed to repair the economy.
“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 speech was part attack on Obama, part spirited testimonial to Romney, all leavened by a loving tribute to Ryan’s own mother, seated across the hall in a VIP box. “To this day, my mom is a role model,” he said while she beamed and exchanged smiles with one of his children and delegates cheered.
Ryan’s 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.
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 did not mention Obama by name, but implicitly criticized his 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.
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