LANCASTER, Ohio - The day after Paul Ryan and Joe Biden's first and only vice presidential debate, the top of the GOP ticket praised his running mate and noted a "growing crescendo of enthusiasm" across key battleground states.
"I've had the fun of going back and forth across Ohio and this week I was also in Florida and Iowa, I was in North Carolina, in Virginia, and you know what, there is a growing crescendo of enthusiasm people recognize that this is not an ordinary campaign, this is a critical time for the country, there is more energy and passion, people are getting behind this campaign, we're taking back this country," Romney said, standing next to Paul Ryan as well as Ohio senator Rob Portman, who played Barack Obama in debate prep.
On a brisk fall Friday night in central Ohio, Romney praised Ryan's debate performance saying, "There was one person on the stage with thoughtfulness, who was respectful, who was steady and poised," inferring that the vice president was not.
"There is one person on that stage you'd want to be with if there were a crisis - it is this man right here," Romney said in the town square here in front of several thousand supporters. "And when the moderator asked how you'd get the economy going, one person on the stage just attacked. But this guy … went through all the things he'd do to get this economy going."
The two running mates were last together the day after Romney's first debate in Fishersville, Va., last week. The most recent poll out of Ohio has the president at 51 percent to Romney's 45 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll from Thursday.
Ryan said the debate showed their opponents were "offering no new ideas," and hit them specifically on how the administration handled the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
"We had a little chat about Libya and Benghazi," Ryan said. "We mourn the cost of these four brave Americans, but talking about blaming. First they blame a YouTube video in a nonexistent riot. Then when the country is getting upset about it, they blame Romney and Ryan for getting people upset about it. They keep changing their story. This is not what leadership looks like."
Romney gave a strong pitch to the Ohio crowd, a crucial state no Republican who has made it to the White House has ever lost, to "do everything in our power to keep America strong, to restore the values that make our homes the center of our society, to keep our economy strong and to have a military so strong no one would ever think of testing it."
With less than a month before Election Day and just four days before the second presidential debate, Romney and Ryan chose a GOP-leaning county that voted by a 58 to 41 percent margin for John McCain in 2008 to hold this fire-up-the-base rally.
And supporters gave Ryan glowing reviews.
"Ryan is brilliant, and the beauty about Ryan is that he's not a intellectual elitist," said Mike Morton, a Columbus resident who manages rental properties and watched last night's debate. "He's very approachable."
And their critique of Biden was harsh.
"Biden just embarrasses me," said Dana Jenkins of Dublin, Ohio, a recent retiree. "He was rude in so many ways, and I can't imagine him dealing with foreign leaders with his smirky attitude. It's just not what we want the U.S. image to be."
But Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement that Romney and Ryan were "awfully defensive about last night's debate at their event in Ohio," presumably referring to Romney's suggesting that Biden was a less than respectful debater.
"It's no surprise why - Vice President Biden unmasked their real agenda," she wrote. "Romney and Ryan want to cut taxes by $250,000 for multi-millionaires and pay for it by raising taxes on the middle class. They would turn Medicare into a voucher program and raise costs on seniors by over $6,000 a year. And when the time came for Paul Ryan to reassure women that Mitt Romney wouldn't work to take away a woman's right to choose, his first response was a sigh. This is the real Romney-Ryan agenda and it's one that Americans can't afford."