CLEVELAND, OH -- Appearing in an economically hard-hit corner of the crucial battleground state of Ohio, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan attempted to put a softer edge on the GOP ticket’s plans to reform social programs.
In one of his only major policy speeches of the campaign, the Wisconsin congressman sought to widen the GOP ticket's appeal beyond Republicans and to Independents and Democrats -- just as President Barack Obama's campaign warns that GOP nominee Mitt Romney's proposals would wreck the social safety net and stunt upward mobility.
“Upward mobility is the central promise of life in America. But right now, America’s engines of upward mobility aren’t working the way they should,” Ryan told the crowd at Cleveland State University. “Mitt Romney and I are running because we believe that Americans are better off in a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy that fosters economic growth, opportunity and upward mobility instead of a stagnant, government-directed economy that stifles job creation and fosters government dependency.”
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The speech hit on policy more than politics, evinced by the fact that Ryan mentioned Obama's name only once in his speech.
“Mitt and I have a message that’s bigger than party. We are speaking to all Americans in this campaign,” Ryan said in front of nearly 600 people, adding, “Wherever we are in life, whether we are rich or poor, black, brown, or white, American by chance or by choice, we are one nation, rising or falling together.”
He continued: “Whatever your political party, this nation cannot afford four more years like the last four years. We need a real recovery,” Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said with both American and Ohio flags lining the stage behind him.
The seven-term Wisconsin congressman referenced his former mentor, Jack Kemp, in the speech and said that a Romney administration, if elected, would do everything it could to help the 46 million Americans in poverty today.
“In this war on poverty, poverty is winning. We deserve better. We deserve a clear choice for a brighter future,” he said, speaking off a teleprompter.
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The list of topics Ryan on which touched didn’t stop there, extending into themes he discusses regularly on the campaign trail -- but counched differently for the more formal speech. He also included standard Romney agenda items, such as "urgent" reforms of the school system, repealing Obama's health care law, and protecting religious liberties.
“Look, I am a proud Republican,” the GOP VP nominee said. “Our party does a good job of speaking to the part of the American Dream that involves taking what you’re passionate about and making a successful living from it. But part of what makes America great is that when we don’t succeed, we look out for one another through our communities. My party has a vision for making our communities stronger – but we don’t always do a good job of laying out that vision.”
Wednesday’s speech in the Buckeye State was a step toward trying to help better illustrate that vision.
"In a Cleveland speech today less than two weeks before the election, Congressman Ryan will attempt to hide the truth about Mitt Romney’s policies," responded Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Obama campaign. "But one last-minute speech won’t be able to mask the truth: the Romney-Ryan approach would close ladders to the middle class with a budget that, according to one expert, would “likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history)."
The last major policy speech on the Republican side came back on Oct. 8, when Romney spoke in the battleground state of Virginia on foreign policy. Ryan’s event in Swanton, OH that day was delayed to watch his running mate’s address. Today, shortly after Ryan took the stage in Ohio, Romney started his campaign rally simultaneously in Reno, NV.