MILWAUKEE - Paul Ryan said that finally, a month before Election Day, people are getting to see the real Mitt Romney, and the Republican presidential nominee is starting to look a lot like Ronald Reagan.
"Did Mitt Romney not knock it out of the park the other night in Denver?" Ryan asked a crowd of about 200 donors at a fundraiser here Saturday evening. "I was so excited to see that because I was thinking to myself, finally people are seeing the guy we know. Finally - I mean didn't you kind of think of Ronald Reagan when you were watching that?"
A donor interjected that Romney's debate performance actually reminded her of the man standing in front of them.
"We were thinking of you," a donor yelled.
Ryan thanked the woman and said Romney's performance showed a "decisive man," a "man with a bedrock of principals," and "a man who articulates how the rising tide lifts all boats."
"A person who wasn't afraid to defend the free enterprise system and basically make the case that the American system of freedom and free enterprise has done more to help the poor, more to help people rise up, more to create opportunity than any other economic system ever designed and why on earth would we want to trade it in for what we have in Europe?" Ryan said.
Ronald Reagan has been brought up throughout this campaign. A conservative hero that even at the mention of his name energizes crowds for the current Republican ticket, Reagan is also meant as a reminder of the 1980 election when his message of a "clear contrast" led to a win against incumbent president Jimmy Carter.
The GOP vice presidential nominee seemed to be trying to push back against the idea that Romney's remarks, caught on a video leaked last month, that 47 percent of the electorate are "dependent" and "victims," represent the candidate's true view of the country.
Romney has since called the comment s "completely wrong."
Before the GOP vice presidential nominee spoke, John Hammas, the Wisconsin State Finance Chair for the Romney-Ryan campaign, said the fundraiser broke Milwaukee party records by raising $2.8 million.
The price ranges for tickets at the fundraiser at the Pfister Hotel started at $250 for donors under 35 years old and $1,000 for those older who wanted to attend the general reception. A photo with the congressman was a $5,000 donation, and the dinner cost $15,000 per couple. Those who donated $50,000 per couple or $100,000 per couple were able to meet with Ryan in a small group before the reception.
The crowd was a hometown one for Ryan, who was joined by his wife Janna and other Wisconsin politicians including Sen. Ron Johnson and Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus. He noted during his speech he "recognize(d) literally just about every one of your faces" and said how "great it feels to be home."
"Let's see, I think I was last in this room for the Wisconsin Banker's Association luncheon, I've been in this room for weddings, I've been in this room - we had George Bush in this room, we were in this room with Dick Cheney a number of years ago. … We are in this room to make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States," Ryan said.
He said that the state Republicans' ability to defeat the attempted recall of Gov. Scott Walker this summer will help Romney win this state and win the election. The yearlong recall effort ended in Walker keeping his job as well as the state legislature remaining Republican.
"We had to take this case to our fellow citizens, to our fellow Wisconsinites," Ryan said. "Wisconsin went for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and it has not gone Republican since. Look what happened in the recalls, we know it's within our power, we know it's within our abilities. In 2012, let's send our 10 electoral votes to send this country on the right track, let's get this done."
Ryan's selection to the GOP ticket has tightened the polls in this state and both parties are fighting hard on the ground and the air to win this state. Recent polls still have the president with a lead of between 5 and 11 points, but others are even tighter. President Obama campaigned here Thursday on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a record breaking 30,000 people attended.
"This is reinvestment back in Wisconsin," Ryan said. "If you've seen what our party has been able to do here, what Reince helped build in 2010, the moral courage exhibited by people like (State Sen.) Alberta Darling and what she pulled off last summer after they tried to beat her and some of her colleagues, then they tried to take back our state supreme court, they didn't do that. Then they came after our governor and his vote margin went up.
"The lesson learned is two lessons," he said. "Number one, tell people who you are, what you believe in, what are your principals and what you will do. That's what we need in this country, we need leadership. We don't have it right now.
"Second thing is get elected, then do it," he said. "That's what we need in this country. That's what Scott Walker did, that's what Alberta Darling did and that is exactly what Mitt Romney and I are going to do."
He called his home state of Wisconsin a "great immigrant story."
"It is immigrants coming from around the world," Ryan said. "We have the Germans and the Poles and the Czechs and the Irish and the Hispanics coming here to make a better life, coming here for the land of opportunity, for the promise, not knowing whether or not they were going to make it or not, but knowing that this is a country that you could come to and make the most of your lives because this country is a country founded on an idea. It's not just a nation with a flag, it's not just territory, it's an idea."
Less than a week before Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, faces off against Vice President Joe Biden in their only debate, moderated by ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson called the difference between the two were a "powerful contrast."
"Now we all realize this election is an election of contrasts and there's one right there - Paul Ryan vs. Joe Biden," Johnson said. "I mean that's a pretty powerful contrast and of course we are all looking forward to Thursday. … I want you all to have that attitude, that the financial future of America may just rest here in Wisconsin with the 10 electoral votes, here in Milwaukee, it might rest with you talking to your family."
Ryan has another fundraiser scheduled today in Chicago ahead of campaign stops Monday in Ohio and the state Mitt Romney was born and raised in: Michigan.