Vote 2012: V.P. Candidate Takes Stage at Iowa State Fair
By Rod Boshart, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's first appearance in Iowa as Republican Mitt Romney's choice for vice presidential running mate Monday turned the Iowa State Fair into a media circus and political zoo.
Thousands of fairgoers jammed the grand concourse to get a glimpse of a GOP neighbor to the northeast and hear him explain his party's vision for America's future during a 12-minute speech that was punctuated by shouts from hecklers and cheers of supporters.
"That's a bonus," said Jan Tetrick, 74, an Adel Republican who came to the fair for a day's entertainment with her family and got the added benefit of seeing and hearing Ryan while she was perched atop a golf car in a sea of people who gathered for the stump speech or were drawn by curiosity to the cluster of TV cameras that documented the Wisconsin congressman's every move.
Steve Knouse, a Tombell, Texas, man and Ryan supporter who also got an unexpected glimpse of the Wisconsin congressman said he liked what he heard of the remarks "I could hear over the protesters. That's the environment you have to work in."
Ryan took to a microphone to tell the assembled throng that President Barack Obama continues to pile up massive federal debt by spending more money that the government takes in. "He's making matters worse and he's spending our children into a diminished future," he said.
"We're not growing this country like we need to to get us back on the path to prosperity," added Ryan, who praised presumptive GOP presidential nominee Romney as "a man who knows how to create jobs" and touted the five points of Romney's plan to strengthen the middle class and foster an economic rebound by bolstering America's energy independence, giving adults and children the skills to succeed, cutting the federal deficit, championing small businesses, and creating a trade policy that works for America.
At times, the congressman had to speak over hoots and taunts from protesters, telling the crowd that Iowans and Wisconsinites "like to be respectful of one another and peaceful with one another and listen to each other" so he concluded the hecklers must not be from Iowa or Wisconsin.
Near the back of the crowd, a woman held up a sign that read: Hands off my Medicare, in apparent reference to a voucherlike system Ryan has proposed to reshape Medicare that he maintains are needed to preserve the system for future generations. Another woman tried to shield the sign from observers and TV cameras with a "Romney Believe in America" placard.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, a House colleague who considers Ryan a friend, said the Wisconsin congressman "has very different ideas about how to deal with things like paying for Social Security, paying for Medicare and paying for education" that he expected would become "a focal point for many of the sharp differences that we're going to be talking about" during the 2012 campaign.
Sue Dvorsky, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said Democrats welcome that debate.
"He's going to have to explain to these people why voucherizing and privatizing Medicare is a good thing," she said.
Dvorsky said the fact that Ryan and President Obama both were in Iowa this week points up the importance the state has in this election.
"The first place they send him after the split the team up is here. That's probably important," she said. "We are literally in the center of a state that's literally in the middle of the country and truly in the middle of this fight. I think it's very exciting."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Monday proved that Iowa is a battleground state and Ryan's visit was "to make sure that Obama doesn't get all the publicity from his trip across Iowa" but he didn't read too much into the throngs who gathered to greet the congressman. "I've been around too many presidential candidates that have a mob and they didn't win so that in and of itself doesn't solve the problem. But the fact that he's willing to do this speaks a lot about him that he's not going to take anything for granted," Grassley said.
"Oh my God" said one woman standing at a corn dog stand when she turned to see Ryan with a horde of media in tow.
"That's no way to see the fair," said another woman as law officers and campaign staff cleared a path for the congressman as he said hi to passers-by, signed an occasion autograph and shook some hands.
"I would like to get a hug from him," said Mary Sheldahl of West Des Moines. I got one from Mitt Romney. I got a handshake from him. I think that's the best I'm going to do today."
Gov. Terry Branstad, who greeted Ryan after his motorcade rolled into the fairgrounds, called Romney's vice presidential pick "a great choice."
Branstad had indicated he wanted to see a governor picked as the GOP running mate, but he told reporters Monday he thinks Ryan brings "a compliment to Romney that gives him some experience in the federal budgeting process that is going to be necessary in order to get our nation back on track financially."
The Iowa governor also told reporters he was not in the vice presidential discussion, saying "I've made it very clear that my love is of Iowa, and I ran for governor again because I want to get the state of Iowa back on track. I'm obviously very interest in new leadership in Washington, D.C., because with the highest federal taxes and the massive deficit I think we need new leadership to help us achieve the very ambitious goals we have at the state level."