Vote 2012: "Are you better off?" Ryan Asks in Cedar Rapids

By Steve Gravelle & Jillian Petrus, Reporters

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - "Are You Better Off?" was the slogan emblazoned on posters at Tuesday afternoon's Republican campaign rally as the party's vice presidential candidate made an appeal keyed to anxiety over the nation's lagging economy.

"(President Obama) can't tell you you're better off," U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan told about 400 people at Kirkwood Community College.

Ryan said the national debt, which hit $16 trillion Tuesday afternoon, is "a serious threat to our economy. Of all the broken promises from President Obama, this is probably the worst one, because this debt is threatening jobs today."

An Obama re-election would signify "a nation in debt, a nation in decline," Ryan said. "We will not stand by and watch this country slip through our fingers."

Ryan was accompanied by Gov. Terry Branstad, who said that under GOP ticket "less spending, less government, and lower taxes will grow our economy."

"I feel like I'm back at home," said Ryan, whose Janesville, Wisc., hometown is "an hour and a half drive from Dubuque."

Ryan said Mitt Romney's experience running the 2002 Winter Olympics and as Massachusetts' governor qualify him for the presidency. "This is a good man, this is a leader," said Ryan, who sought to contrast Romney's record with "the most acrimonious, partisan climate I've ever seen in Washington." He said "we owe you solutions," but Ryan's 20-minute speech was short on specifics, beyond promising "we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare."

"We need to have tax reform to get rid of the loopholes and lower taxes for everybody," he said.

Ryan's pitch impressed Bill Windauer of Iowa City, who said he's "very, very disappointed in the last four years." "He did a good job," Windauer. "The information is building up, as far as what the Democrats and Republicans want to do." Windauer, 62, a University of Iowa fundraiser, said he's "more decided than not," leaning toward voting Republican in November. Is he better off than in 2008? "I don't think so," Windauer said. "I would say there are little things - the price of gas."

"I'd say 'No,'" said Lisa Bolte, 43, of Hiawatha. "The price of gas, the price of groceries."

"Just like everyone else, we're excited," Bolte said of Ryan. "I'm a conservative, he's a conservative. We have the same values, the same principles."

This is Ryan's second trip to the Hawkeye State. He visited the Iowa State Fair in August. Ryan will speak at a rally Wednesday at the Dallas County Courthouse in Adel.

President Obama and Vice President Biden will visit Iowa City on Friday where they will hold a campaign rally on the University of Iowa campus.

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