Tuesday 14 August 2012
Last Update 15 August 2012 7:33 am
DES MOINES, IOWA: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sent his new running mate to the Midwestern state of Iowa yesterday, testing his campaign mettle against Barack Obama as the president began a bus tour of the battleground state that launched his successful run for the White House four years ago.
Notably, Romney was not taking Rep. Paul Ryan with him to Florida, where the vice presidential candidate's plans to overhaul government health care for the elderly was not likely to find a welcoming audience. The key swing state is heavily populated by older Americans who rely on the Medicare program.
Three months from Election Day, polls find Obama with a narrow lead over Romney in a race defined by a weak economy and high unemployment. But Romney enjoyed the biggest crowds of his campaign so far over the weekend after announcing Ryan as his running mate on Saturday.
Ryan, a favorite of the small-government, low-tax tea party wing of the Republican Party, brings to the Romney campaign an austere message on government spending, one designed over the coming decades to diminish the US debt. He also brings enthusiasm from the party's conservative base, which has only reluctantly backed Romney because of the moderate positions he once took on social issues. Ryan is against abortion rights and has a top rating from gun-rights groups.
The Obama campaign has been attacking Ryan's plans for Medicare and for reshaping the nation's tax system. That will continue as Obama campaigns across Iowa for three days by bus — his longest visit to a single state yet in the 2012 campaign.
Attending campaign fundraisers in Chicago on Sunday, the president called Ryan the “ideological leader” of the Republican Party.
“He is a decent man, he is a family man, he is an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney's vision, but it is a vision that I fundamentally disagree with,” Obama said in his first public comments about Ryan's selection.
With Ryan in place, the race takes full shape. Romney portrays himself as a proponent of a friendlier business climate seeking to revitalize the economy and rein in federal spending, and Obama casts himself as a defender of middle-class families and federal spending on health care, retirement pensions and education.
Looking to define the Republican ticket's views on Medicare, the Obama campaign released an online video yesterday featuring seniors in Florida talking about how Ryan's proposed changes to the popular health care program could affect them. The video aims to portray the Romney-Ryan ticket as a threat to Medicare and Obama as its protector.
Romney tried Sunday to distance himself from his running mate's budget plan, making clear that his ideas rule, not Ryan's.
“I have my budget plan,” Romney said, “And that's the budget plan we're going to run on.”
He walked a careful line Sunday as he campaigned with Ryan in North Carolina and Wisconsin. He singled out his running mate's work “to make sure we can save Medicare,” but he never said whether he embraced Ryan's austere plan himself.
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