GOP VP Candidate Paul Ryan Turns to Town Hall Meetings

In final strech to vote, VP candidate reverts to format he likes best.

LIMA, Ohio, Sept. 25, 2012 -- With six weeks to go before Election Day, the campaign is entering the final sprint and Paul Ryan is returning to a way of campaigning that has worked for him in Wisconsin: the town hall meeting.

He's held over 500 in his home state, but before recently he had only done one just after being named Mitt Romney's running mate. He's done five since becoming the vice presidential nominee, including three in the last two weeks.

It's a free-wheeling format that even Romney generally avoids.

On Saturday at the University of Central Florida, Ryan unveiled a four slide Powerpoint presentation on the national debt, something he used again in Lima at the start of the GOP ticket's Ohio bus tour, telling the crowd, "This is the crisis that is on our doorstep, that we know about that President Obama sees these numbers, and not only is not doing anything to fix it, he is making it worse."

He scrolled through the slides, noting when he first brought them out that he's "kind of a Powerpoint guy."

It's far from the quick 20-minute pep talk he stuck to at rallies during his initial weeks on the campaign trail, but his background in policy and his reputation as less of a cheerleader and more of a policy wonk fits this format.

Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the question and answer format is something he enjoys and wants to do more of.

"I'm feeling my own way because it's my first national campaign to be in the middle of. And so I'm basically asserting my own preferences now, and I like it," Ryan told the newspaper's Craig Gilbert. "I'm learning how to do this. I'm learning how a national campaign works. So I spent a good bit of time doing rallies and events, and I got to realizing, that you know what, I want to do more town hall meetings. That's been my bread and butter in Congress. I really like that. It's more interactive. You get to actually communicate directly with people."

An aide to Ryan said it's "a format he likes and is comfortable with," adding "the entire campaign has been very supportive. We're finding the best venues and formats to help lay out the serious choice that the American people face in this election."

The same aide told ABC News that Ryan was "certainly involved" in the switch to a more town hall-heavy schedule and said that the campaign makes "decisions day by day on the best way to communicate -- there's no fixed formula."

Conservatives have been vocal that Ryan should be a more visible on the campaign trail. Though the more frequent town halls may not completely appease critics, it's clear Ryan enjoys them.

At the convention center in this northwestern Ohio town, a man stood up and told the GOP vice presidential nominee that he was a "great man" who was "going to make it up there," but he also shared a complaint: "We need a backbone in the Republican Party."

Ryan listened politely, nodding at times, before saying, "I couldn't agree with you more" three times to cheers.

"I am one of those guys who put these ideas out there when they weren't cool," Ryan said. "During the Bush administration, I mind you. Here is how you cut spending, here is how you reform these programs. Forget about the proverbial third rail in politics. We have got to take on these challenges before they tackle us."

It wasn't the only question posed by the Lima crowd that departed from more common topics like health care and gas prices.

A man stood up and asked him, "For those of us who would have voted for, in the primaries for, say Ron Paul, why should we vote for you not say Libertarian or Vermin Supreme and the Pony Party?"

Ryan didn't hesitate, "Do you want Barack Obama to be re-elected? Then don't vote for Ron Paul." (The House Budget Chairman quickly added that the two are friends.)

The format also gives him a chance, outside the daily interviews with local affiliates or network interviews, to at times address what he has called the recent "inarticulate" comments of his running mate.

"Let me address this 47 percent because this is the point that Mitt and I are trying to make," Ryan said, referring to leaked videos of Romney where he said at a closed door fundraiser," that 47 percent of the electorate that will vote for Obama are people who are "dependent upon government" and believe "that they are victims."

"We want an opportunity society not a welfare state. That is what the American dream is. Now what our objective is, is to address the root causes of poverty to break the cycle of poverty instead of simply treating poverty to make it more tolerable because you will get more poverty that way. We want to get people out of poverty, into the middle class, on to the lives of self sufficiency."

The crowd cheered, but it is the comments of Romney's that voters are now seeing in a new ad produced by the Obama campaign that began airing Monday in this crucial battleground state. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll from earlier this month has the president with a seven point lead to Romney 50 percent to 43 percent.

One supporter of the Republican ticket in Lima, Alexis Ley, agreed with some conservatives who say they want to see more of Ryan, saying she sees Romney, Obama, and Joe Biden on television more often.

"I would like to see him. That's why I'm here today," Ley said. "I want to see what he has to say as opposed to just hearing he's the vice president. I haven't heard enough to be in love with him, but I hope to be."

Another Romney supporter, Paul Blaho, was convinced he will be "seeing a lot of Ryan."

"I like Ryan," Blaho said. "He's a sportsman I'm a deer hunter I think he can relate to the common man on the street. I think we will see more of him."