LIMA, Ohio - Foreign affairs, and the fate of a tank factory in Lima, dominated a Republican political rally Monday headlined by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
"We have a President who has proposed again and again to shut down this tank factory, the only one we have, over a budget gimmick," Mr. Ryan told a crowd inside the Veterans Memorial Civic & Convention Center.
"If we keep showing that the only thing we want to do is gut our military, that projects weakness abroad, our adversaries are so much more willing to test us, our allies are so much less willing to trust us. We need peace through strength," he said.
Mr. Ryan was the last of a series of speakers to address a crowd of 1,680 Republican faithful. It was Mr. Ryan's first of four planned appearances in Ohio this week. He is to be joined by ticket leader Mitt Romney on the campaign trail for a bus tour of Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr. Ryan turned part of his time over to taking questions from the audience.
Before he spoke, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) also attacked the Obama administration over a Pentagon plan to mothball the plant in Lima that builds the Abrams M1A1 tank.
"They produce the best combat vehicle in the world. Can you believe this administration, President Obama, wants to shut it down," Mr. Portman said. "It's the wrong thing to do for ourt national security, ... for our economy, ... for us as taxpayers."
Mr. Portman said the plant that employs up to 800 will cost more to shut down and later re-open than just to keep it open.
The Pentagon has said it has enough Abrams tanks and wants to halt production for several years as it wrestles with deep cuts in military spending over the next decade.
The government-owned plant is operated by General Dynamics Corp. The company has estimated the cost of shutting down the plant and then restarting it at $1.6 billion, while keeping it open with minimal production over four years would cost $1.4 billion, the Associated Press has reported.
The Army puts the price of pausing production at around $400 million budget plan to slash defense and other government spending by $1 trillion unless a new budget agreement is reached soon.
The Obama for Ohio campaign fired back that Mr. Ryan voted for the automatic spending cuts that could trigger large cuts in the nation's defense budget.
“The only thing ensuring that these cuts will become reality is Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan’s opposition to asking for a penny more from millionaires and billionaires," said campaign spokesman Jessica Kershaw. She accused Mr. Romney of planning to cut deductions for mortgage interest, children, and charitable contributions to provide millionaires with tax cuts. So far, Mr. Romney hasn't said how he would pay for tax cuts.
She also provided examples of Allen County residents who belong to the 47 percent cited by Mr. Romney in a secretly recorded campaign video as people not paying taxes. Mr. Romney said those people are dependent on government and think of themselves as victims.
Her list included a firefighter, an Air Force sergeant, an autoworker, a police officer, or a member of the clergy with stay-at-home spouses and two children; a high school teacher or a security guard with an at-home spouse and three children, or a Spencerville retired couple living entirely on Social Security.
Speaker Josh Mandel, the Ohio state Treasurer running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown, raised the unrest in the Middle East as an indictment of current U.S. policy.
"Governor Romney understands we are in a fight against radical Islam. There are radical Muslims in the Middle East who are overrunning our embassy in Egypt, killed our own ambassador in Libya. We need a commander in chief like Mitt Romney who understand what that fight means and will take it to the enemy," Mr. Mandel said.
Mr. Mandel served two tours of duty in Iraq while serving in the Marine Corps reserve.
Mr. Ryan used a slide show with graphs to address the nation's deficit and debt problems, saying it would be "immoral" to pass the debt on to the next generation. And he said the Romney campaign has a goal of making North America energy independent of the Middle East by 2020.
Asked by one questioner to explain Mr. Romney's "47-percent" remark, Mr. Ryan said - the crowd's approval, "We want an opportunity society, not a welfare state."
He said the Romney administration's measure of success would be not how many people are on food stamps "but how many we get off of them."
Mr. Ryan said President Obama's statement in an interview on the Spanish-language Univision network last week that he can't change Washington from the inside was revealing.
"That is why you send presidents to Washington - to fix what's broken in Washington. Since he's admitted he can't change Washington, we need to change presidents," Mr. Ryan said.