Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan addresses a late-night… (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)
VIENNA, Ohio — This is Paul D. Ryan’s second-to-last day as a vice presidential nominee, and the congressman seems to be relishing his last few hours on the trail, reveling in the rock-star-like rallies as crowds chant for him and cheer his name.
Ryan held five rallies in Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin the day before Tuesday’s election, telling crowds in his second-to-last rally of the night, in an airport hangar near Youngstown, Ohio: “We’re in the home stretch. This is the final countdown. The red zone is here.”
Ryan’s entry to the rally was, in itself, dramatic.
As a crowd waited and waved American flags, a giant white plane with the words “Believe in America” pulled up outside the hangar, energizing the crowd even at the late hour of 9:30 p.m. Ryan and his family walked in between a giant American flag and a huge Ohio flag to cheers echoing off the sides of the hangar. The family, dressed in puffy winter jackets, smiled and waved — even his son Charlie, whom Ryan always describes as “the shy one,” looked like he was having a good time.
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As he is wont to do in Ohio, where he spent four years of college, Ryan emphasized his connections to the state, telling the audience, “I’m a Miami grad and I’ve got a lot of friends in this state. I’ve got friends from Kettering, Mansfield, Akron, Cinci, Columbus, Zanesville, Toledo and from Oxford.”
Ryan’s stump speech criticizes Obama and pledges to restore the values of the country, talks up running mate Mitt Romney and his tenure of governor of Massachusetts. But on this night he went a bit off script, reflecting on how the campaign is coming to an end.
“It is this close. We have the momentum, the country knows we can do better, and everybody is watching you, you know that,” he said. “The Buckeye State, all the cameras ... are looking at you because your vote matters so much.”
Ryan’s last full day on the campaign trail began Monday at 9 a.m. in Reno, and his last was slated to end at 10:15 p.m. in his home state of Wisconsin. On Tuesday, Ryan will vote in his hometown of Janesville and then fly to Boston, where he and Romney will watch election returns.
The Youngstown area may seem an odd choice for a Ryan rally — it is located in Trumbull County, which supported Obama 62% to 36% in 2008 and is home to some of the auto parts suppliers that benefited from the federal bailout of the auto industry that Obama supported. A nearby plant in Lordstown makes the Chevy Cruze.
But the rally drew people such as Brian Miller, 43, a small-business owner who drove 45 minutes to attend his first Romney-Ryan rally. He said he thought Romney would squeak out a victory in Ohio, because he didn’t notice the same energy in Obama volunteers as he had in 2008. If Romney doesn’t win, Miller said, “it will be a sad day for America.”
Miller was treated to a show, if nothing else. After Ryan finished his nine-minute speech, which was interrupted at times by chants of “One more day!” he shook hands around the crowd, and then retreated with a final wave on the podium as the crowd cheered and rock ’n’ roll music blared from loudspeakers.
After a few minutes, Ryan retreated to the plane, just as the strains of one song ended and another began.