Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan makes a policy speech about upward mobility and the economy Wednesday at Cleveland State University's Waejten Auditorium.
Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND — Paul Ryan outlined how a Republican White House would lift people from poverty during a speech on Wednesday at Cleveland State University.
The Republican vice-presidential candidate told an enthusiastic crowd on this urban campus that he and Mitt Romney have a plan to help the nation’s neediest people escape poverty.
“Upward mobility is the central promise of life in America but right now America’s engines of upward mobility aren’t working the way they should,” he said. “Mitt Romney and I are running because we believe that Americans are better off in a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy that fosters economic growth and opportunity and upward mobility instead of a stagnant government-directed economy that stifles job creation and fosters government dependency.”
In a roughly 27-minute speech that offered more policy discussion than pump-up politics, Mr. Ryan outlined how a Romney administration would improve the lives of the poor. He called for reforms to anti-poverty programs and schools, and more freedom for nonprofits to operate.
“We’re still trying to measure compassion by how much government spends, not by how many people we help escape from poverty,” he said.
Campaigns are in full gear in key battleground state Ohio, with Republicans working to gain precious votes over President Obama before the Nov. 6 election.
Mr. Ryan made religious references several times on Wednesday. He called for a balance between government action and “leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.” He cited examples of community efforts to assist the poor, including an Elyria homeless shelter.
“What’s really at work here is the spirit of the Lord, and there is no end to the good that it can inspire,” Mr. Ryan said.
But, “abuse of government power,” including government mandates to Catholic hospitals and charities, undermines the work of private groups, he said. The crowd, estimated by the Romney campaign to number between 650 and 700 people, stood to applaud when Mr. Ryan said those mandates would be removed upon Mr. Romney’s election.
Mr. Ryan also criticized the national debt, pledged to give states more control over programs that target poverty, called for public school reform, and cited the “pressing need for jobs.”
Mike Bentley of Solon, Ohio, praised the speech, which he attended even though he already cast his vote for Mr. Romney.
“It was the most unbelievable campaign speech coming down to the wire,” Mr. Bentley said.
He called the address “serious” and said it skipped the “rah rah” political element common in most campaign events.
“It was the challenge that we have to address poverty,” Mr. Bentley said. “I personally feel that the government is trying to take over the role of private, nonprofit religious institutions.”
A spokesman for Mr. Obama’s campaign said the Republicans’ approach and their proposed budget does not build a strong economy “that’s built to last.”
“That’s not providing additional opportunities for people who are looking to get into the middle class and have security there, and that’s really what this election is all about,” said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for Obama for America-Ohio.
She said voters this election have a “clear choice.”
“I think the President thinks that there’s a strong force for good that the government is able to provide,” she said. “There should be a safety net for people that need additional help as the economy is recovering.”
Jimmy Kemp, son of NFL football player and former U.S. Congressman Jack Kemp, who died in 2009, introduced Mr. Ryan before a welcoming audience.
Jackie Schlemmer, 18, arrived outside the college auditorium more than an hour and a half before the speech’s start. The CSU freshman from New Castle, Pa., backs the Republican team because she said her hometown hinges on the success of farmers and small business. A candidate with those interests, is “exactly what I’m looking for,” she said.
She learned about Mr. Ryan’s appearance here on Tuesday and made plans to attend, alone. “Every single one of my friends and roommates here are Democrats,” Miss Schlemmer said, but that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. “I’ve been up all morning.”
Mr. Romney scheduled Ohio events today in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Defiance. He and Mr. Ryan are scheduled to appear in North Canton on Friday, and Mr. Ryan scheduled multiple Ohio stops this weekend.
On Saturday, Mr. Ryan will visit New Philadelphia, Zanesville, Circleville, Yellow Springs, and Dayton. On Sunday, Mr. Ryan will stop in Celina, Findlay, and Marion.
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