BEREA, Ohio - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Paul Ryan on the campaign trail Wednesday, marking the first time she's hit the trail for the Romney ticket since she fired up the crowd with a speech at the Republican National Convention in August. Her appearance also comes on the heels of the second Obama-Romney debate, when the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the economics of birth control, and Romney's less-than-eloquent "binders of women" became hot topics on the campaign trail the next day.
"It doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you are going" was her message in this battleground state, inferring that the president, whom she never mentioned by name, is not someone who's offering the right direction for the country.
"As important as it is for us to pay our bills and not take on debt that we can't afford, as important as it is to get people back to work, as important as it is to give people a sense of hope again, I want to make another argument to you," Rice said, speaking to a crowd of over 1,000 at Baldwin Wallace University.
As Secretary of State, Rice said, you get to travel and see what America "means to the world," stressing a sense of equality is what makes the world admire the U.S.
"People here have never been trapped in their view of class as a prison," Rice said to cheers. "We have never been envious of one another, and we have certainly never been envious of one another's success. Instead, we've been a country of opportunity and hope," Rice said. "That principle that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going, has always meant that we have not been a people who were constantly aggrieved. 'Why don't I have?' And we didn't give way to aggrievement's twin brother, entitlement. 'Why don't they give me?'"
Rice said Americans know "we might not be able to control our circumstances, but we could control our response to our circumstances," adding "that's what this election's about."
She acknowledged that "it's been a rough decade or so."
"9/11 changed our conception of physical security, the crisis of 2008 changed our conception of economic prosperity and security, and the last four years have been very tough on folks who just want to work hard and make a living," Rice said. "So when Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan say they're going to put this country back to work, this is an urgent call, not one for which we can wait another four years."
Wearing a blue blazer, Rice also reprised a line from her convention speech when she related the message to her youth in segregated Alabama and said, "Americans have had a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect."
"And then a little girl grows up in Birmingham, Alabama," Rice said to huge cheers. "She can't go to a restaurant, a movie theatre, but her parents have her absolutely convinced she can be president of the United States, she becomes the Secretary of State."
When Ryan got to the stage, he hugged Rice, calling her the "embodiment of the American idea" and noted it was the second time he had followed her. The first was the GOP convention. "It's a little intimidating, tough act to follow."
Ryan praised his running mate's performance in the second presidential debate last night saying to cheers, "Didn't Mitt Romney do a great job for us last night?"
The GOP vice presidential nominee also focused on women, possibly to court those who may have been turned off by his running mate's "binders full of women" comment at Tuesday night's face-off.
"We had a discussion about how women are faring in this economy last night," Ryan said. "Five and a half million women are still struggling for work in this economy - a half million more are unemployed today than when President Obama was sworn in. Twenty-six million women are trapped in poverty today, that's the highest rate in 17 years."
The Obama campaign responded to Ryan's remarks saying he "was in a tough spot trying to spin Mitt Romney's rattled, awkward, and dishonest debate performance."
"Romney doesn't have a plan to create jobs, reduce deficits, or strengthen the middle class - all he's offering is the same failed policies that nearly crashed our economy in the first place," Obama campaign spokesperson Danny Kanner said in a statement.
After the rally, Rice and Ryan, as well as Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who has been a constant on the Ohio campaign trail for the Romney ticket, visited the Cleveland Browns' training facility. Rice is a big Browns fan and they got to watch the players train as well as chat with a few. Rice told the players she had even taken some foreign ministers to football games, saying how she would explain football to someone who doesn't know the game: "It's a game of taking territory. Just keep taking territory."
The most recent polls in this crucial battleground still have the president ahead between four and six points, but both sides are aggressively campaigning on the ground and on the airwaves in the state. Ryan has another event in Columbus on Wednesday evening before traveling to Florida on Thursday.