GOFFSTOWN – Paul Ryan’s first visit to New Hampshire came as a high schooler to ski Tuckerman’s Ravine, the presumptive vice presidential candidate informed between 3,500 and 4,000 people under abundant sunshine on the Saint Anselm College quad Monday.
The event was the Romney campaign’s 100th town hall meeting, and it served as Ryan’s Granite State rollout event. Ryan had visited Saint Anselm two years ago for an event benefiting the Young Republicans.
Ryan stuck to the vice presidential script, alternating between praising his running mate and criticizing the Obama administration. But Ryan also showed flashes of spontaneous humor. When the Saint Anselm clarion interrupted his remarks to signal the hour change, Ryan quipped about saving the country “at the eleventh hour.” Later, after Romney recognized a questioner who wore a Yankee’s fan and told a joke about hating Yankees that fell flat, Ryan assured the man, “But not you, sir. We love you!”
“I back winners. That’s why I’m backing you,” rejoined the Yankee’s fan, whose team took two out of three from the Sox over the weekend.
Ryan and Romney each spoke for 15 minutes before fielding eight rounds of friendly Q&A over 35 minutes, with each man chiming in. Those pitching softballs included state Sen. Jack Barnes (Afghanistan is “this damn mess”), state Rep. Jeanine Notter, and activist Jennifer Horn. Horn’s son was skipping school to attend the event. “We’re not going to clap for that,” Ryan joked.
Speaking of Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and his New Hampshire audience, Ryan said, “We all come from states where you have to work with the other side to get things done.” Later, Romney referenced that background as one of the reasons why he chose Ryan as his running mate.
To Democrats who are distorting Republican entitlement reform proposals, Ryan effectively said, bring it on. “We want this debate. We need this debate. And we are going to win this debate about Medicare.” Ryan couched his discussion in terms of his senior citizen mother, who is a Medicare beneficiary, and referenced an aunt who had Alzheimer’s and received Medicare benefits.
Romney reiterated his belief that freedom drives the American economy, and contrasted that with the Obama administration’s apparent belief that government does. Derisive references to “you didn’t build that” drew some of the loudest cheers from the crowd.
Romney challenged members of the audience to find one person they know who voted for President Obama four years ago and persuade them to vote for Romney this time.
Fergus@ferguscullen.com, August 20, 2012