Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan charged from the gates in his headlining speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, accusing President Obama of falling short of promises and failing to rescue the economy.
Clearly relishing his role as Mitt Romney’s attack dog, Ryan called Obama’s economic stimulus plan “a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at its worst.” He ridiculed the president’s health care reform initiative – known as Obamacare – as “more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees and fines that have no place in a free country.” And he claimed Obama was shortchanging the elderly by cutting Medicare.
"We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead," he vowed to the GOP faithful. "We will not spend four years blaming others - we will take responsibility."
Ryan roused the arena of delegates and exhorted voters from both parties to get behind the Ryan-Romney ticket.
“Let’s get this done,” he said.
Ryan’s speech marked a day in which Republicans moved away from trying to soften Romney’s stiff image - his wife, Ann, was a headliner Tuesday - and returned to more aggressive messages.
Ryan led the charge. He appeared composed and confident, pausing to absorb frequent standing ovations.
"After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Mitt Romney," Ryan said.
Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, is not well-known to many voters outside the party's core, but he tried to change that during his speech in Tampa. He introduced his wife and children and his mother in the crowd. He also told the story of growing up in a small town that he never really left, and the struggles, including the death of his father when he was young, that led him into politics.
"My dad used to say to me, 'Son. You have a choice. You can be part of the problem, or part of the solution,'" Ryan said. "The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems."
Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, emphasized the need for fiscal restraint, smaller government and lower taxes. He outlined the basics of a Romney administration platform: “tax fairness and regulatory reform,” creating 12 million new jobs in four years and capping federal spending at 20 percent of GDP.
Then he went back to attacking Obama.
Ryan acknowledged that Obama had inherited a flagging economy and housing crisis when he was elected in 2008. But Ryan blamed the president for failing to solve those problems.
“President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record,” Ryan said. “But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it."
The audience, again, roared and rose to its feet.
"College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life," Ryan said, winning more prolonged cheers. "Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too. If you're feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you."
Ryan also knocked Obama's increasing reliance on negative advertisements.
"I'm the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power," Ryan said. "They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left."
Ryan was preceded on the Tampa Bay Times Forum stage by several notable members of the GOP, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who lost to President Obama in 2008, Condoleezza Rice, who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.
Bush and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, appeared in a video reminiscing about their days in the White House.
McCain focused on international affairs, accusing the Obama administration of failing to protect democratic movements in fragile parts of the world, including Syria and Egypt, and withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan prematurely.
"Our president is not being true to our values," McCain said.
Romney, McCain said, will be more assertive. "I trust him to know that an American president always, always, always stands up for the rights, and freedoms, and justice of all people."
Receiving a rousing ovation, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued that the United States' standing in the world was in danger and that Romney could bring the country out of harms way.
"If we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen," she said. "No one will lead and that will foster chaos — or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum."