(GREENVILLE, N.C.) — Paul Ryan on Monday compared the president to Jimmy Carter, using a line Democrats have been asked over the past two days, saying the country is not “better off” than four years ago and “simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now.”
“Folks, there’s a little gathering going on in Charlotte,” Ryan said to a crowd at East Carolina University, some 230 miles from where the Democratic National Convention is being held in Charlotte. ”President Obama is going to be giving a big speech, there’s going to be lots of speeches, lots of words. Let me quote President Obama four years ago. ‘If you don’t have a record to run on then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.’ Ladies and gentleman that is exactly what Barack Obama is doing today. The president has no record to run on. In fact every president since the Great Depression who asked Americans to send them in to a second term could say that you were better off than you were four years ago except for Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama.”
Ryan is referring to Obama’s speech to the DNC in 2004. He continued the Obama/Carter comparison, comparing unemployment rates as well as delinquent mortgages during the current administration and under Jimmy Carter’s.
“When you take a look at what we’re going to hear in Charlotte today, the president can say a lot of things, and he will, but he can’t tell you that you’re better off,” Ryan continued.
The line of attack was a brand new one for the vice presidential candidate, he even glanced at notes on a stand at the rally in the student recreation center every now and then, more than he usually does on the stump.
The campaign is quickly reacting to Obama surrogates Sunday and Monday who at first struggled to answer the question of “Are we better off?” or answered no. Monday, Obama officials and even Vice President Biden enthusiastically made their point that the country is better off. Biden watered it down to what he called a “bumper sticker” slogan.
“Folks let me make something clear, and say it to the press – America is better off today than they left us when they left,” Biden said at a Labor Day rally in Detroit. ”Let me just sum it up this way folks, you want to know why we’re better off? I got a little bumper sticker for you. Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
Biden was also supposed to “bracket” the RNC just as Ryan is here on Monday, but Hurricane Isaac got in the way, diverting his plans.
This state is representative of the Obama campaign’s 2008 victory, winning the state that had gone red for 30 years. But in 2012—despite the DNC being held here—it’s a different landscape and both sides are fighting hard for the state. Ryan on Monday called it “crucial.”
“We’re going to hear a lot of words from Charlotte this week,” Ryan continued. “But here’s the kind of words we’re not going to hear. We’re not going to hear evidence and facts about how people are better off. You see the president cannot run on this record. He’s run out of ideas. And so that is why he’s going to be running a campaign based on envy and division, based on frustration and anger. Hope and change has now become attack and blame.”
A new poll out Monday from Elon University and the Charlotte Observer shows Romney with a slight lead in North Carolina with 47 percent support to 43 percent support. The last poll done in the state was done at the end of August, but before the Republican National Convention. That poll had Romney and Obama statistically tied with 48 percent Romney to 47 percent Obama.
Ryan previewed what the president will speak about, possibly at his convention speech this week.
“You’ll hear the president talk about this a lot,” Ryan said in front of over 2,000 people at East Carolina University plus two over flow crowds. “He’ll say that we just want tax cuts to go to really wealthy people and at the expense of everybody else.”
Ryan continued, saying “here’s how this game works in Washington” pointing fingers at Democrats and his fellow Republicans.
“Republicans in the past are just as guilty as Democrats,” Ryan said. “What happens is you pay your taxes, you send your money to Washington, and then special interest groups come and they get the little carve outs in the tax code, and then if you do what Washington approves of, they might give you some of your money back. We just want you to keep your money in the first place.”
The Obama campaign immediately responded to Ryan’s claims saying “it’s no surprise that America’s Go Back Team is spending their time waxing nostalgic about how things were three decades ago.”
“Instead of the President’s forward-looking vision for an economy built from the middle out, Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan want to take us back to the same top-down policies that caused the collapse -budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy on the middle class’ dime and letting Wall Street write its own rules again. That’s not a recipe for strengthening the middle class – it’s the same failed scheme that devastated the middle class in the first place,” Obama spokesperson Danny Kanner said in a statement.
Ryan is far from the only Republican in the state trying to counter the Democrats’ message as their convention begins on Monday. The RNC is holding an entire counter-convention outside of the event including press conferences from GOP politicians and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Z. Byron Wolf, CNN
Eugene Scott, CNN
David Wright, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN