GLEN ALLEN, Va.—At the end of his first week on the stump, Paul Ryan said the current political environment is the “most partisan atmosphere” he’s “ever seen” over the three administrations he’s worked for.
“Remember the line, we’re not red states, we’re not blue states but we’re the United States of America?” the vice presidential candidate said referring to President Obama. “I want to be a uniter, not a divider? I tell ya, I’ve served with three presidents since I have been in Congress, this is the most partisan atmosphere I have ever seen. This is not uniting, this is dividing.”
Wearing his signature outfit of a blue checkered shirt and khaki pants, he addressed the rally of about 2,500 boisterous supporters in a high school gym here and stressed how important this state is if the GOP ticket is to win in November.
“Virginia is a very important state – you have heard it from everybody,” Ryan said. “This is a state that I have spent a lot of time hunting and fishing in. It is kind of the thing I like to do. It is a state that is so diverse. Great bass out there, I’ll tell ya. I’ve caught some big bass here. This is a state that has it all, and this is a state that will determine it all and we have a clear choice.”
Last month while campaigning in Roanoake, Va. President Obama said, “When we get Virginia, we will win this election.”
The House Budget chairman said at the event that out of Virginia “have come ideas and leaders that have made the nation proud,” and a Romney administration would bring 345,000 jobs to the state. He didn’t elaborate on how he came to that specific number.
“I’ve spent my time in Charlottesville and all around,” Ryan said, aiming to connect with the local crowd. “Thomas Jefferson said it better than anybody else could have when he wrote those words in the Declaration of Independence. It’s the essence of the American ideal, and that’s special because we are the only country founded on an ideal. Our rights, they come from nature and God and not from government. Virginian founders created this and our veterans have been securing it ever since. And we thank them for that.”
He did not mention the one issue that’s been trailing him since entering the race: Medicare. He is expected to discuss it Saturday when he visits the world’s largest retirement community, The Villages, in central Florida with his 78-year-old mother.
As he has consistently since he joined the Romney ticket last Saturday, he praised his running mate calling the two presidential opponents a “stark contrast.” He again zinged the president on the now standard Republican attack on “you didn’t build that.”
“This is a person who is living proof and experience that knows if you have a small business, you built that small business,” Ryan said.
“More than half of our jobs come from these small businesses and what is the president doing? More regulations, more uncertainty, more borrowing, more spending, more taxing!”
An audience member shouted out “and more teleprompters!” which Ryan repeated.
“And more teleprompters. We are going to add that in,” Ryan said smiling, repeating the now familiar dig at the president. Both Romney and Obama use teleprompters for major speeches and both members of the GOP ticket used one during the announcement in Norfolk last Saturday.
Ryan also accused the president of not staying competitive globally and raising taxes on small businesses that makes it impossible for them to compete overseas, calling it “Obamanomics.”
“You see we are in global competition like it or not and overseas, which where I come from means Lake Superior,” Ryan said joking. “Countries like Canada and all of our trade competitors they are lowering their tax rates on their businesses. Canada lowered their top tax rate on their businesses to 15 percent in January and what is President Obama proposing? He is proposing the tax rate on our successful small businesses goes above 40 percent in January ? How on Earth are we going to compete like that? You see when we tax our job creators and our businesses at much higher tax rates than our foreign competitors tax theirs they win, we lose.”
He also rang a populist bell saying under the Obama administration the “people who are politically connected, it’s the people who have access to Washington that get the breaks, well no more, we don’t want to pick winners and losers in Washington.”
Ryan was introduced by a man who at one point was thought to be a vice presidential contender, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. There didn’t seem to be any immediate awkwardness, with McDonnell calling him a “man of immense character” and said “he’s got an incredible heart for public service.”
After the rally, the two went outside to greet an overflow crowd of several hundred and Ryan said it is a “difficult moment for the country right now, it’s a difficult moment around the world.”
“What we’re seeing around the world are decades of politicians from all political parties have made lots of empty promises to voters to get re-elected,” Ryan said. “And pretty soon, those empty promises become broken promises with painful consequences, if we don’t act now. That’s why we need leadership.”
He ended by intoning the words of his “favorite Brit,” Winston Churchill.
“The Americans can be counted on to do the right thing only after they’ve exhausted all the other possibilities,” Ryan said to laughs. “I think that’s probably where we are, so let’s get it right, let’s do it.”