LYNCHBURG, Va. — Three weeks from Election Day, Paul Ryan was wooing voters in the battleground state of Virginia, trying to lure those who had voted for Obama’s “promise of hope and change” in 2008 to the Republican ticket in 2012.
“You know the dispirited … help them, help them see the choice they have in front of them,” Ryan said at a rally next to a rolling green hill on the grounds of the Automated Conveyor Systems plant. Before the rally, he toured the plant, and then jumped into a truck, driving onto the field for a more dramatic entrance than he usually employs. Supporters sat on the hill listening to him.
The vice presidential candidate hit familiar themes in his criticism of the president: foreign policy; the role of government; looming defense cuts, which would hit Virginia particularly hard.
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Virginia was reliably red until four years ago when Barack Obama won the state, the first Democrat to do so in a presidential race since 1964. This year, both sides have filled the airwaves with ads, and the Romney campaign is trying to flip the state back to red. Ryan has two events in the state on Tuesday — Fredericksburg is his next stop — and Romney has two on Wednesday.
Recent polls show just how tight it is in Virginia: an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll from last week has Romney at 48 percent and Obama with 47 percent. A CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll, also from last week, has the president with 51 percent, Romney with 46 percent.
At the event, Ryan promised to “replace this failed government with one that works.”
“With one that gets behind the American people,” Ryan said. “With one that respects you. Because we believe the government works for we-the-people and not the other way around.”
Ryan was particularly harsh on the president when it came to foreign policy, which he repeatedly said is “unraveling…. if we look weak, our adversaries are more willing and more brazen to test us and our allies are less willing to trust us. It’s a dangerous world. We are at war with terrorists…. And when you see this administration’s proposal for these devastating defense cuts, that not only costs jobs here in Virginia, but it undermines our national security, our primary responsibility of the federal government and it projects weakness.”
Ryan has consistently blamed the president for the looming $500 million in defense cuts, simplifying the issue on the campaign trail. The cuts are mandated by the Budget Control Act, signed into law last August by President Obama in exchange for a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit.
House Speaker John Boehner had insisted that any increase in the debt limit be matched dollar-for-dollar in spending cuts and reforms, but as the federal government ran critically low on cash, Congress had only agreed to about $1.2 trillion in savings.
Still, the debt limit was increased under an agreement that called on the bipartisan “super-committee” to negotiate an additional $1.2 trillion in savings, or face sequestration — meaning the automatic cuts that include those defense cuts and items unpalatable to each party. The Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have warned what the cuts would mean for the military. Ryan has introduced legislation to try and replace the cuts and prevent sequestration.
The Obama campaign responded to Ryan’s event, with spokesman Danny Kanner writing in a statement, “If Congressman Ryan’s performance today is any indication, Romney still seems to be more concerned about winning votes than being straight with the American people.”
The Democrats have also been aggressively campaigning in the state. Vice President Joe Biden was last in the state Sept. 25 and the president has been doing his most recent debate prep in Williamsburg. His last official campaign event there was in Vienna on Oct. 5.