WESTLAKE, Ohio — Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan rallied this GOP enclave in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County Tuesday, seeking to boost his party's case that Americans are worse off now than four years ago.
"When it comes to jobs, President Obama makes the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days," Mr. Ryan told a standing crowd of about 2,100 inside the Westlake Recreation Center.
He said the unemployment rate was lower and that there were far fewer foreclosures and bankruptcies in 1980, the last year of Mr. Carter's presidency, than now.
"If we fired Jimmy Carter then, why would we rehire Barack Obama now?" he said.
Mr. Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, made his fourth appearance in Ohio after being picked to run with GOP nominee Mitt Romney. After his 12:20 p.m. event, he left for a campaign appearance in Iowa.
Mr. Ryan cited Mr. Romney's background of taking over the troubled 2002 Olympics, governing Massachusetts, and co-founding the investment firm Bain Capital as qualifying him to be president.
"This is a man who knows from personal experience, if you have a small business, you did build that small business," Mr. Ryan said.
"President Obama can tell you a lot, and he's good at doing that, but he cannot tell you that you're better off," Mr. Ryan said. "After four years of getting the runaround, what America needs is a turnaround, and the man for that job is Mitt Romney."
Listeners cheered loudly at each call from Mr. Ryan and other speakers to elect Mr. Romney as president.
A heckler tried to interrupt Mr. Ryan while he was saying the nation's bond rating was downgraded for the first time in its history. The heckler was out-shouted by chants of "USA" by the rest of the audience.
Isabel Cooley, 89, of Macedonia, Summit County, pronounced the speech "wonderful."
"I think Paul Ryan speaks the truth for our country. I think he knows what we really need. I think Romney-Ryan will give us good results," said Ms. Cooley.
Mike Gillis, spokesman for the state AFL-CIO, which is backing President Obama, attended the rally, and said afterward, "I think we are better off than we were when President Obama took office. After eight years of [President George W.] Bush we were on the precipice of economic collapse."
He noted that Mr. Ryan didn't mention the Bush years.
Mr. Ryan acknowledged in his 20-minute address that Mr. Obama "inherited a difficult situation.
"The problem is, he made it worse," Mr. Ryan said.
He also sought to find some common ground — or water — with Ohio.
"Wisconsin, Ohio — we are in the same boat. We fish out of similar boats in the Great Lakes for great walleye," he said.
"You got bigger walleye here in Lake Erie than we do up in Lake Michigan. I won't say yours is better tasting, but walleye is the best freshwater fish to eat, bar none," Mr. Ryan added, partly in response to comments from the crowd.
Jessica Kershaw, a spokesman for the Obama campaign in Ohio, said the auto industry is "roaring back," in spite of Mr. Romney's and Mr. Ryan's opposition to the 2009 taxpayer-funded car industry rescue.
Noting vehicle and parts manufacturing plants in nearby Parma, Avon Lake, and Brook Park, she said, "How do you account for all of the Ohio jobs that Mitt Romney would have lost had we listened to his advice to let the American auto industry go bankrupt?"
Westlake is a Cleveland suburb of about 37,000 people. Its Republican mayor, Dennis Clough, bragged about the city's fiscal status, which he attributed to a belief in balanced budgets, low tax rates, good management of taxpayer dollars, and creating a favorable environment for business.
"We still have our triple A bond rating. Unfortunately America does not," he said. "Westlake and northeast Ohio can deliver the state of Ohio for Governor Romney. If we do this, this will assure that Governor Romney becomes the next president of the United States of America," Mr. Clough said.
Brecksville Mayor Jerry Hruby prompted the crowd to yell "no" as loud as they could to the question that Republicans have been asking for the last week, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.