LIMA, Ohio -- Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president, kicks off a three-day campaign tour of Ohio today at the Veterans Memorial Civic & Convention Center here.
Some supporters of Republican nominee Mitt Romney said they believe the tide is turning in Mr. Romney's favor, despite a new opinion poll showing President Obama with a 5-point lead in Ohio, while a small group of Obama supporters rallied across Market Street from the long lines of Ryan supporters waiting to get in the convention center in downtown Lima.
Several carried signs that said, "Mitt Romney: writing off the middle class" and "My job is not to worry about those people," references to Mr. Romney's recently disclosed remark at a videotaped fund-raising event that 47 percent of the country is dependent on government and is not likely to support him for President.
Melvin Warren, 68, a retired Air Force master sergeant and Vietnam veteran, taunted the Republicans through a bullhorn.
"We support our commander-in-chief," Mr. Warren said, alternately pressing a police siren button on his bullhorn. "We are definitely better off," he blared.
Steve Gliebe, 60, of Kenton, a retired steelworker at Cooper Tire, said Mr. Obama has gotten America out of wars it shouldn't be involved in.
"Romney, he stands for the rich people. He doesn't think much of people like us," Mr. Gliebe said. "He's a warmonger. He's already told Israel he'll back them up."
Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, was to speak in Lima first and continue with a speech Tuesday in Cincinnati.
Mr. Romney picks up the baton Tuesday afternoon at a rally outside Dayton. On Wednesday he will speak at rallies near Columbus and Cleveland, and in Toledo at the SeaGate Centre.
The campaign is calling its bus tour the “Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class” bus tour, and the sign inside the convention hall in Lima bears the slogan "We Need a Real Recovery."
President Obama will speak in Bowling Green and Kent on Wednesday.
Ohio is getting well over its share of presidential campaigning attention because the state's 18 electoral votes are up for grabs, and because they are considered essential for Mr. Romney to win the 270 electoral votes needed for victory, and highly desirable for Mr. Obama as well.
Allen County, the home of Lima, went 60.5 percent for Republican John McCain in 2008 over Mr. Obama, who carried the state with 51.5 percent of the vote.
"Without Obama standing up for the auto industry the UAW as we know it would not exist today," said Larry Donaldson, past president of UAW Local 2147. An employee of the Lima tank plant, operated as a public-private entity, Mr. Donaldson said Mr. Obama is not trying to cut the military excessively, whereas he thinks Mr. Romney is proposing too much of a military build-up.
"I think what he's got in mind is war with Iran," Mr. Donaldson said.
Romney supporters across the street said their large numbers and the small numbers of Obama protesters shows momentum for Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan.
"They have the right to free speech," said Ed Vaske, 62, of near Lima. He dismissed polls showing Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney in Ohio, as shown by an Ohio Newspaper Organization poll published in The Blade Sunday.
"I think the polls were off just like they were in the Carter election," Mr. Vaske said, alluding to pre-election polls showing incumbent Jimmy Carter ahead of Republican Ronald Reagan.
He said he sees Mr. Ryan running an aggressive campaign, but isn't so sure about the ticket-leader.
"He's on the defensive too much," said Mr. Vaske, a former hourly employee and UAW member at the Ford plant in Lima. "What he said in that [videotaped] meeting is what most people feel."
Hannah Shreffler, 22, a senior in political science at Ohio Northern University in Ada, pointed to what she said was a small turnout among the Obama backers, compared with a crowd of likely more than 2,000 people standing in the slow-moving line to hear from Mr. Ryan and other Republican leaders.
"I think that speaks well for our cause, for our campaign and our candidate, that we're lining up around the block in an area that has some high union rates is having a somewhat small demonstration," Ms. Shreffler said. "Maybe the support for Obama has gone down in the last four years."
Romney supporter Tobi Meyer, a mother and part-time secretary from Bluffton, said the government's spending is "out of control." She, too, wants to see a more energetic campaign out of Mr. Romney.
"He's got to get the word out to the undecided and uninformed," Ms. Meyer, 49, said. "He does need to step it up a little bit. If he gives examples of what he's going to do I think that would help a lot."