(NEW YORK) — After 48 hours that took him from the woods behind his childhood home to the side of the Republican presidential candidate and big, buzzing campaign rallies in three political swing states, Rep. Paul Ryan kicks off a rejuvenated race today at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
Mitt Romney’s new running mate and a full plane of staff, supporters, and press touched down in the Hawkeye State late yesterday. Now, Ryan begins his first solo day on the campaign, where he will cut in with voters in yet another state — after Virginia, North, Carolina, and Wisconsin, over the weekend — both campaigns see as key to their prospects for victory in November.
President Obama welcomed Ryan to the fray yesterday, calling the congressman “a decent man,” “a family man,” and “an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision.”
“But it’s a vision,” the president said, “that I fundamentally disagree with.”
His campaign sharpened the attack this morning, asserting that the Romney-Ryan proposals are “the same top-down economic scheme that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class in the first place.”
It’s a message Obama will carry from Illinois, where he hosted a fundraiser in his family home last night, right into Iowa, where he will tour drought-ravaged farms and unveil a new federal aid plan to buy $170 million in livestock and push other short-term relief measures — like the controversial Farm Bill — for the hard-hit agricultural sector.
“I’m told Governor Romney’s new running mate might be around Iowa these next few days,” the president said. “And he’s one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. We’ve got to put politics aside and do right thing for rural America and Iowa.”
But even as so many eyes turn to the dueling campaign stops in the Midwest, both the Romney and Obama teams remain focused on the national race.
The Democrats are seizing on Ryan’s “Roadmap,” a defining but politically sensitive budget plan that calls for fundamental changes in how the government taxes and spends, and most notably, manages entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, both of which Ryan would have privatized over the coming decade.
The Obama campaign released a web video this morning, filmed in Florida and playing on concerns about how those proposed changes would affect seniors.
“Medicare is a boon to senior citizens,” one woman says. “And without that we choose between food and going to a doctor.”
Ryan, who was interviewed alongside Romney on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night, responded to the attacks, which began even before his new role was confirmed in Norfolk, Va., Saturday morning, by telling Bob Schieffer that his own mother is “a Medicare senior in Florida” and that he has no intention of changing the system for current beneficiaries.
The Ryan plan would, over time, shift Medicare to a voucher-based system that, he says, is meant to “preserve” the program and protect it against a growing federal deficit crunch.
Romney, who kicks off a bus tour today in Florida with Sen. Marco Rubio, is out with a new ad, his second go at criticizing the president’s “Work for Welfare” waiver program, which will allow some states to apply for temporary exemptions for certain federal work requirements.
The first scheduled stop was in Orlando, but that’s been scrapped after a campaign source told the Orlando Sentinel that the candidate was “too exhausted to make the trip” following an intense weekend blitz. The Romney campaign has denied “exhaustion” is the reason they switched up the itinerary, calling the report inaccurate and pointing to an otherwise full day on the stump.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eric Bradner, CNN
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News