Romney, Ryan bus tour rolls toward Florida
Republican presidential ticket cast themselves GOP turnaround artists
Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan were set to appear at rallies in North Carolina on Sunday before "The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class" bus tour heads south for three Florida appearances on Monday.
Romney is set to appear at a Monday morning rally at Flagler College in St. Augustine. The west lawn of the college at 74 King Street is open to the public at 7 a.m. with the event scheduled to begin at 8:20. The campaign rally will be covered live on The Local Station's Morning Show and carried live by News4Jax.com.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee will then appear at a housing roundtable in Orlando and a Miami rally Monday afternoon before heading to Ohio on Tuesday.
The Romney campaign says Ryan would head to Iowa on Monday -- where President Barack Obama will also be campaigning -- and would not be at Romney's side during the Florida campaign swing.
Within minutes of Ryan claiming a spot on the ticket on Saturday morning, conservatives celebrated and Democrats pounced.
Romney and Ryan are pitching themselves as “America’s Comeback Team,” Republican turnaround artists willing to take on tough decisions facing the economy, entitlement programs and the role of government.
Countering, President Barack Obama and his allies assert that adding the conservative Wisconsin congressman to the Republican ticket creates a sharp choice for voters on the future of the nation’s tax system and safety-net programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.
The Romney campaign was already treading carefully on Ryan’s controversial plan to rework entitlement programs. Asked how Ryan’s budget plan fits into Romney’s campaign, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden emphasized that Romney’s plan is distinct from his running mate’s.
“Gov. Romney is at the top of the ticket. And Governor Romney’s vision for the country is something that Congressman Ryan supports,” Madden said.
Romney’s selection of Ryan as his vice presidential running mate this weekend jolted the presidential contest and set the contours for the fall campaign: Romney as a proponent of a friendlier business climate seeking to revitalize the economy and rein in federal spending while Obama seeks to cast himself as a defender of middle-class families and federal spending on health care, retirement pensions and education.
Still, the fundamentals of the campaign remained unchanged: a race defied by a weak economy and high unemployment, measured most recently at 8.3 percent in July. Recent national polls as well as surveys in several battleground states indicate a narrow advantage for Obama, though Romney hopes to get a boost of momentum from the attention he was getting with his running mate announcement.
It remains uncertain whether Ryan on the ticket will influence the state-by-state race to reach the 270 Electoral Votes needed to claim the White House.
Democrats say Romney’s embrace of Ryan, the architect of a controversial long-term budget plan remaking Medicare and cutting trillions in federal spending, could open the door for Obama with older voters in battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Republicans say Ryan could help put Wisconsin, which traditionally has voted Democratic in presidential campaigns, in play and that the Catholic Midwesterner also could appeal to blue-collar voters that Romney, a Mormon and multimillionaire, has struggled to reach in Iowa and elsewhere.
The campaigners have three months to make their case, with the national party conventions coming in just weeks and the series of presidential debates scheduled for October.
In Norfolk on Saturday, Romney said Republicans would present economic solutions “that are bold, specific and achievable,” vowing to create 12 million new jobs and “bring better take-home pay to middle class families.” Ryan, who at 42 is a generation younger than Romney, said Republicans would eliminate the nation’s “debt, doubt and despair.”
Obama left it to his campaign advisers and Democratic allies to tear into the choice of Ryan. They said Ryan on the ticket would hurt Republicans with older voters, middle-income families and women in November.
“The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires and deep cuts in education, from Head Start to college aid,” Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager, said in a written statement.
“His plan would also end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors,” he said.
Some party officials noted that Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and one-time Republican presidential candidate, referred to Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare as “right-wing social engineering,” a line that Democrats envisioned in attack ads. Gingrich later apologized.
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