DUBUQUE, Iowa - The campaign has entered "the debate phase, the choice phase," GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said today as he kicked off his two-day Iowa bus tour.
"The choice is clear. And here is what we are doing. We are entering the debate phase, the choice phase of this campaign. And this choice is ever so clear," Ryan told the crowd of about 1,000 people at Loras College, the same college his grandfather attended.
This is a line Ryan has tried out in fundraisers and interviews, but this is the first time he used it at a public campaign event.
Ryan is traveling around the eastern part of the state with his wife Janna, three kids, and extended family, including his wife's sisters and father.
Ryan's own debate against Vice President Joe Biden is Oct. 11 and he will spend most of the week after his bus tour here doing debate prep with his staff and sparring partner former Solicitor General Ted Olson in Virginia.
Despite the pending faceoff, Ryan aimed most of his fire this evening at President Obama, criticizing his record on job creation and his foreign policy, saying the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, shows there is an "unraveling" of the president's agenda in the Middle East.
"If you turn on the TV today you can see that the Obama foreign policy is unraveling before our eyes," Ryan said. "It's not just an isolated incident where we lost four Americans in Libya - that's a tragedy. But it's part of a bigger story of the unraveling of this agenda all over the world."
The administration has "distanced our ally Israel" and "we are not advancing our interests in the Middle East," he said.
Referencing his notes throughout the event and standing in front of the ticking debt clock now at most events, Ryan unveiled a new jab at the president:
"At a time when we have a jobs crisis in America, wouldn't it be nice to have a job creator in the White House?" he asked to cheers.
Ryan argued that the federal mandate that all employers include insurance coverage for birth control proves the president is "willing to trample on our religious freedoms," despite facing a tough reelection.
"This is religious freedom," Ryan said at the Catholic college and identifying himself as a Catholic. "When you see something like that come from our government like this in this kind of a year, where President Obama clearly has a difficult reelection. I mean, he's got to win Iowa to win this thing. If he is willing, if he is willing to trample on our religious freedoms before his reelection, what do you think he will do if he never ever has to stand for election ever again? Think about how chilling that is!"
Ryan ended by asking the audience "humbly … for your help" and urging those in the crowd to talk to voters who may have supported the president four years ago, but are now undecided.
"Help us by helping yourself, by helping save the country, by talking to those people you know that voted for President Obama last time," Ryan said.
Ryan's Iowa bus tour is scheduled to continue Tuesday with stops in Clinton, Muscatine, and Burlington.