DES MOINES, Iowa — He talked about cow milking and demolition derby, but Rep. Paul Ryan’s most pointed remarks Monday at the Iowa State Fair targeted President Barack Obama’s economic leadership.
Facing thousands of cheering supporters lined along booths offering fried Oreos and pork chops, the newly tapped Republican vice presidential candidate accused Obama of “spending our children into a diminished future.” Noting that the president had launched a three-day tour in Iowa that day, he gave Iowans a suggestion.
“As you see the president come through in his bus tour, you might ask him the same question that I’m getting asked from people all around America. And that is, ‘Where are the jobs, Mr. President?’” said Ryan, clad in jeans, cowboy boots and a red-and-white checkered shirt.
It was Ryan’s first day campaigning alone as Mitt Romney’s running mate, a role he assumed just two days earlier.
The 42-year-old seven-term congressman quickly established himself as Romney’s chief attack dog in the campaign to prevent Obama from winning a second term. But he also showed himself to be a lightning rod of sorts, generating huge excitement among conservatives and equally strong disdain from Democrats opposed to his plans to reshape Medicare.
While his reception was largely positive, protesters interrupted his brief fairground address several times. They chanted, “Stop the war on the middle class,” and one woman climbed on stage with Ryan before security could drag her away.
“She must not be from Iowa,” Ryan said as he tried to focus on his speech.
Later, as he raced through the fairgrounds with a mob of supporters and reporters in tow, one fairgoer shouted, “Do you really wanna cut Medicare?”
Ryan did not respond. In fact, he did not directly address his controversial budget plans at all during his debut in Iowa, a swing state Obama won in 2008.
Ryan is the architect of a plan approved by House Republicans that would set up a voucher-like system to let future retirees shop for private health coverage or choose a government plan modeled on the traditional program. Independent budget analysts say that would probably mean higher out-of-pocket costs for seniors.
Ryan shrugged off the hecklers.