TAMPA, Fla. — Paul Ryan took on the role of attack dog in his convention speech Wednesday night, portraying President Obama as a disappointing failure “surviving on slogans that already seem tired.”
“I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power,” he said. “They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
It was a departure from Ryan’s traditional role as the party’s top budget wonk, usually more at home with a Powerpoint behind him than a roaring crowd in front of him. But he whipped the crowd up with a steady offensive aimed squarely at Obama.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House,” Ryan said. ”What’s missing is leadership in the White House.”
“President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two,” he said. “Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account.”
Ryan said he became disillusioned after Obama visited an auto plant in his Wisconsin district in 2008 and pledged to keep it open. But the plant went under as the economy collapsed.
Unmentioned in the anecdote was the fact that the plant closed its doors in 2008 — under President George W. Bush .
No matter. Ryan cited the plant as an example of “how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”
Ryan used the image to hit at what has been the core of the Romney campaign’s general election argument: Never mind how we got here. The economy today is all that matters.
“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 to thunderous applause. “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.”
He touched on his controversial proposals for Medicare, which would privatize the program to varying degrees and potentially cut its benefits by dramatic amounts, in only the most general terms.
“Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it,” he said. “A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”
By contrast, he went after Obama, as he has on the campaign trail recently, for enacting $716 billion in Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act. He didn’t mention that he authored two budgets that included the exact same Medicare cuts, which don’t affect senior benefits.
Along the way, he built up Romney as a decent man in his personal life and a sober administrator in his public and private-sector career. In a new direction for the campaign, Ryan directly addressed Romney’s religious differences with his mostly evangelical party — and his Catholic running mate.
“Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed,” he said. “We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope.”