Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin waves… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
TAMPA, Fla. – In a rousing speech at his party’s national convention, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan offered an impassioned testimonial for Mitt Romney while blaming President Obama for a sluggish economy and trillions of dollars in federal debt.
The appearance by the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman before thousands of cheering Republicans in the Tampa Bay Times Forum marked a milestone in Romney’s campaign to unseat Obama, with invaluable prime-time television exposure for Ryan.
He focused mainly on the economy, attacking Obama for a 2009 economic stimulus package that he described as “political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst.”
“That money wasn’t just spent and wasted – it was borrowed, spent and wasted,” said Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman.
He also faulted Obama for devoting a good deal of his first term to what he called “a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of healthcare.” He did not mention the similar landmark healthcare law that Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts.
“Obamacare comes to more than 2,000 pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees and fines that have no place in a free country,” Ryan told the crowd, which punctuated his speech with applause after nearly every line.
PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past
Just as Romney’s wife, Ann, did on the same stage the night before, Ryan played his part in trying to humanize the Republican presidential nominee, whose stiff manner has long been a political problem.
“There are the songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard on the campaign bus and I’ve heard it on many hotel elevators,” Ryan joked. “He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, ‘Look I hope it’s not a deal-breaker, Mitt, but my play list, it starts with AC/DC and it ends with Zeppelin.’”
Ryan also suggested that Obama was throwing away his campaign’s money on attack ads targeting Romney.
“You see, some people can’t be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their character, ability and plain decency are so obvious,” he said. “And ladies and gentlemen, that is Mitt Romney.”
Ryan confronted head-on the troublesome issue of Medicare. As the author of a Republican plan to set up a voucher system for the elderly to shop for their own health coverage, Ryan is a longtime target of Obama and other Democrats who accuse him of trying to “end Medicare as we know it.”
Rather than defend the proposed voucher system -- which Romney has embraced but voters oppose, polls show – Ryan stuck to attacking Obama for cutting $716 billion from the projected growth of Medicare over the next decade. He did not mention that he supported a similar cut.
“Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.”
PHOTOS: The protests of the GOP convention
At the same time, Ryan referred indirectly to the sacrifice that might be required by future Medicare recipients if a voucher program is adopted.
“We will not duck the tough issues,” he said. “We will lead.”
Ryan’s main focus, though, was attacking Obama’s economic record, singling out young adults as hurt badly by the slow recovery.
“College graduates,” he said, “should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”