ADEL, Iowa–Paul Ryan gave a strong plea to voters here in this small but crucial battleground state on Wednesday, tying his Wisconsin upbringing to their Iowa roots.
Ryan has the right accent, family ties to the state, and the Romney campaign hopes he’ll add some Midwest relatability to a ticket whose headliner is a wealthy former East Coast governor.
He told the crowd of several hundred that he felt like he “just parachuted into my own home” mentioning his mother-in-law who came from Clinton, Iowa as well as his grandfather who went to college in Dubuque.
“We are kindred spirits,” he told the audience. “I come from Southern Wisconsin, corn and soy bean country. I mean you drive five miles that way it looks like five miles from my house. We need to grow more food, make more things, sell them to other countries. That is how we make jobs. We need trade agreements that are fair, that hold people to account, but that help us make and grow things and sell them overseas. That is critical for jobs in Iowa, and critical for jobs in America.”
It’s a point that Romney aides believe will help their effort in this state that has only six electoral votes, but is on both campaign’s maps to victory and could make the difference in a tight race.
“The fact that he comes from Wisconsin, being in the bread basket, he knows how it helps the economy and feeds America and feeds the world. It’s a good way to connect with voters (in Iowa),” a Romney Iowa aide said. “It’s a cultural touchstone that I think helps us.”
“Iowa is so crucial,” Ryan said in front of a courthouse here in this picturesque town.
“Iowans you know this, you are used to this, we need you. You’ve had everybody running for president in each of your kitchens! We need your help. Your country is watching. You have a unique responsibility and a special opportunity to get this country back on the right track.”
The vice presidential candidate is referring to Iowa’s unique status as the first state in the country to cast their ballots. Their caucuses are traditionally first and because of that distinction the state gets a lot of attention from both Republican and Democratic primary candidates.
President Obama’s victory here in the 2008 caucuses is what jolted his campaign in a primary season that many thought Hillary Clinton would handily win. That symbolism of the state is another reason the president has also been campaigning here so hard. Last month he took a bus tour here and on Friday he will campaign in Iowa again with the First Lady Michelle Obama as well as Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.
Mitt Romney has a more troubled history with Iowa primary voters. He spent big here in 2008, but lost the caucuses that year to Mike Huckabee. It appeared he scored a come-from-behind primary victory here in 2012, but final results gave the nod to Rick Santorum. Both candidates ran more conservative and religious-minded campaigns than Romney.
Although the vice presidential selection can only help so much with any campaign the Romney campaign hopes Ryan will help win over those base voters in this socially conservative state.
Chris McLinden is a longtime Romney supporter here and has even hosted a fundraiser with the candidate in his home. It was the first time he saw Ryan campaign for the ticket and he said he saw people at the rally he hasn’t seen at other Romney events in the Des Moines area.
“I think Ryan is a solid pick,” McLinden said. “I’m very impressed with him. I saw some of my Christian Evangelical friends that I haven’t see here before (at Romney events)…you’ll see 10,000 people with Obama and Biden (on Friday), but Republicans have a 20,000 voter registration advantage.”
A Romney aide said the party had a 100,000 voter registration deficit when the president took office, but they are now ahead by 20,000. However, that lack of enthusiasm for the top of the ticket with the state’s most religious voters is what led Rick Santorum from obscurity to victory in the Iowa caucuses with none of the resources the Romney campaign had.
Tim Albrecht, a GOP strategist who now is Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s press secretary, says it’s not just his midwestern message and socially conservative views that makes Ryan appealing to Iowa voters it’s his fiscal conservatism.
“Paul Ryan has been a leader on debt reduction, which plays well in Iowa, where we have the lowest credit card debt in the country,” Albrecht told ABC News. “Iowans hate debt and Iowans hate excuses. Paul Ryan brings with him that Midwestern know-how and common sense that Iowans expect from their leaders.”
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced Ryan and also pressed the urgency of the state as well as Ryan’s role.
“So you understand, you understand we gotta fight, we got a guy that’s going to take it to them,” Grassley said referring to Ryan.
This post has been updated.