Paul Ryan didn't sample any of the Iowa State Fair's alluring fried snacks during his brief stop there today, but he still enjoyed a memorable taste of the state's famously bare-knuckled political tradition.
The Wisconsin congressman's first solo turn as Mitt Romney's new running mate began atop the fair's celebrated soap box, where he told Americans, "We've got to stop spending money we don't have."
But his voice was drowned out at times by the din of cheering supporters and a handful of protesters, one shouting at him to "stop the war on the poor."
"I thought it was wonderful," Ryan told ABC's Jonathan Karl minutes after his solo debut.
Asked if he was bothered by the rowdy crowd, which included one person who tried, unsuccessfully, to climb on stage with him, Ryan said, "Nah, we are used to it. I come from Wisconsin."
After a wild 48 hours that took him from the woods behind his childhood home to the side of the Republican presidential candidate and big, buzzing campaign rallies in three political swing states, Ryan arrived in the Hawkeye State Sunday night on a plane packed with staff, supporters and traveling press.
Iowa, like Virginia, North, Carolina and Wisconsin, over the weekend, holds the keys to the electoral votes both campaigns see as central to their prospects for victory in November.
President Obama welcomed Ryan to the fray Sunday, calling the congressman "a decent man," "a family man" and "an articulate spokesman for Gov. Romney's vision.
"But it's a vision," the president said, "that I fundamentally disagree with."
His campaign sharpened the attack this morning, asserting that the Romney-Ryan proposals are "the same top-down economic scheme that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class in the first place."
It's a message Obama carried from Illinois, where he hosted a fundraiser on the lawn of his family home Sunday night, right into Iowa, where he began a tour of drought-ravaged farms by unveiling a new federal aid plan to buy $170 million in livestock and push other short-term relief measures -- like the controversial farm bill -- for the hard-hit agricultural sector.
"I'm told Gov. Romney's new running mate might be around Iowa these next few days," the president said during his first stop, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "And he's one of those leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. We've got to put politics aside and do right thing for rural America and Iowa."
President Obama added that he expects to end the day at the same state fairground Ryan will visit later this afternoon, the same place some might remember Mitt Romney declared during the primaries: "Corporations are people, my friend."
But even as so many eyes turn to the dueling campaign stops in the Midwest, both the Romney and Obama teams remain focused on the national race.
The Democrats are seizing on Ryan's "road map," a defining but politically sensitive budget plan that calls for fundamental changes in how the government taxes and spends, and most notably, manages entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, both of which Ryan would have privatized over the coming decade.
The Obama campaign released a Web video this morning, filmed in Florida and playing on concerns about how those proposed changes would affect seniors.
During a campaign stop in, Vice President Joe Biden jumped in, too, tying Ryan, who's been in Congress since 1998, and other congressional Republicans to the policies he said brought on the current economic malaise.
"All those initiatives of the Bush administration, these guys supported and voted for. Where do they think it came from? And now they say, with great emphasis, they care about the middle class," Biden said, then quoting his father, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value."
Ryan, who was interviewed alongside Romney on CBS's "60 Minutes" Sunday night, offered up a sort of preemptive rebuttal to attacks like Biden's, telling Bob Schieffer that his own mother is "a Medicare senior in Florida" and that he, in his proposed spending overhaul, has no intention of changing the system for current beneficiaries.
The Ryan plan would, over time, shift Medicare to a voucher-based system that, he says, is meant to "preserve" the program and protect it against a growing federal deficit crunch.
Romney, who kicked off a bus tour today in Florida with Sen. Marco Rubio, is out with a new ad, his second go at criticizing the president's "Work for Welfare" waiver program, which will allow some states to apply for temporary exemptions for certain federal work requirements.
The first scheduled stop was in Orlando, but that was scrapped after a campaign source told the Orlando Sentinel that the candidate was "too exhausted to make the trip" following an intense weekend blitz. The Romney campaign has denied "exhaustion" is the reason they switched up the itinerary, calling the report inaccurate and pointing to a typically full day on the stump.