Mary Altaffer / Associated Press (mbjo47p720121007163607/600 )
MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- Raise a few million dollars. Pick a few pumpkins. Buy some spices for that venison sausage you plan to make. Yeah, Paul D. Ryan was back in Wisconsin this weekend -- working, but having some seasonal fun.
Still buoyed by running mate Mitt Romney’s highly praised debate performance against President Obama on Wednesday and the subsequent tightening of the polls, you could hear the emotion in Ryan’s voice practically everywhere he went.
Standing on a riser in the chandeliered ballroom of Milwaukee’s historic Pfister Hotel on Saturday night, he surveyed the crowd of well-dressed, deep-pocketed supporters, who had shelled out about $2.8 million total, and smiled.
“I think I recognize literally just about every one of your faces,” the Wisconsin congressman said. “It's so heartwarming. I just can't tell you how great it feels to be home.”
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Even the chilly air that met him when he stepped off his campaign plane from Virginia that afternoon felt right: “It was perfect weather … nice and brisk," he said. "The first thing I said is, you know what? The deer is moving right now.”
After three days of vice presidential debate preparation in a Virginia resort near Charlottesville, sequestered with aides and his sparring partner, former Solicitor Gen. Ted Olson, he slept at home on Saturday night and then attended church Sunday morning with his family.
Afterward, he and his family boarded his plane for a short hop to Chicago, where he drew a crowd of about 200 to a fundraiser at a Hyatt hotel in Rosemont benefiting the Romney campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Illinois Republican Party, with tickets that ranged in price from $2,500 to $78,500, the maximum legal limit.
To the crowd of Chicagoans, with memories of their teachers strike still fresh, he uncharacteristically complimented their mayor -- former chief of staff to Obama -- for his hard stance against the teachers union, which had put the White House, with its strong union support, in a political bind.
“We were proud -- and I don't say this a lot -- but we were proud to stand with Rahm Emanuel when he took on the teachers union at the beginning of that fight,” Ryan said. “Too many people were silent on this.”
Ryan left Chicago in his motorcade and drove back to Wisconsin, where he, his wife, Janna, and their three children, Alex, Charlie and Sam, stopped at the Apple Holler, a 10,000-acre apple ranch and pumpkin patch in Ryan's district, near Sturtevant.
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“Are you excited about the debate?” Ryan was asked after buying tickets for the Apple Holler.
“I’m excited about picking pumpkins,” he said.
With a phalanx of Secret Service agents and journalists kicking up dust around them, the Ryans pulled a wagon into the pumpkin patch and had some intense back-and-forth with Charlie about which pumpkin he wanted.
“I’m looking for one that’s tall and round,” Charlie said. They ended up with four large specimens.
“We do this every year,” Janna Ryan said.
As for the size of the large pumpkins they were picking out, she said, “It’s all Paul. He’s very ambitious and very serious about the pumpkins.”
Jenna said Ryan has asked to spend Halloween at home so he can trick or treat with his children.
When the Ryans made their own caramel apples, Ryan stood at a vat of hot caramel and drizzled it over his children's apples.
“You’re moving just when I’m getting it right,” he told journalists, who were hustled away by agents protecting him. “This is my best work yet, my masterpiece!”
Before leaving the apple farm, the Ryans stopped to feed friendly goats, crouching at a fence to offer the creatures green pellets in their palms. “Mom used to raise goats,” Ryan told the kids.
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“We’re not doing this as a photo opportunity,” Ryan said earnestly as a pack of crouching photographers and news producers held cameras a foot or two away from his face. “Here,” he said, offering pellets. “Who wants to try it?”
Later, he visited an Italian deli in Kenosha, greeting the owner as an old friend. He picked out spices for the venison sausage he plans to make with deer meat from his hunting forays.
And yes, he agreed, when someone asked whether making sausage is indeed just like making laws. “It is very similar, actually” he said. “Everybody says that.”
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