Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan took center stage at the GOP convention Wednesday night and introduced himself to voters as the product of small-town, middle-class America and as the man who will join Mitt Romney in making the tough fiscal decisions the country needs.
“I’m the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power,” Ryan said. “They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
He later added: “Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What’s missing is leadership in the White House.”
Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, was not well-known to many voters before joining the Romney ticket, but he endeavored to change that in his headlining speech in Tampa. He spoke about his personal story of growing up in a small town that he never really left, and the struggles, including the death of his father when he was 16, that led him into politics.
“We need to stop spending money we don’t have,” Ryan said.
“My dad used to say to me, “Son. You have a choice. You can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.’ The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems.”
Ryan, 42, who chairs the House Budget Committee, emphasized the need for fiscal restraint, smaller government and lower taxes. He criticized the economic policies of President Obama, as well as his health-care reform initiative.
“College graduates 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,” Ryan said, winning prolonged cheers. “Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too. If you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.”
Ryan capped off his speech by pledging: “We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead.”
“Let’s get this done,” he declared.
Ryan was preceded on the Tampa Bay Times Forum stage by several notable members of the GOP, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who lost to President Obama in 2008, Condoleezza Rice, who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.
Bush and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, appeared in a video reminiscing about their days in the White House.
McCain focused on international affairs, accusing the Obama administration of failing to protect democratic movements in fragile parts of the world, including Syria and Egypt, and withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan prematurely.
“Our president is not being true to our values,” McCain said.
Romney, McCain said, will be more assertive. “I trust him to know that an American president always, always, always stands up for the rights, and freedoms, and justice of all people.”
Receiving a rousing ovation, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued that the United States’ standing in the world was in danger and that Romney could bring the country out of harms way.
“If we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen,” she said. “No one will lead and that will foster chaos — or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum.”