MANSFIELD, Ohio — Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, campaigned for the second straight day in Ohio on Sunday.
Rally-goers gathered in a private Mansfield airport hangar that created a blank canvas for massive Romney/Ryan banners and amplified their cheers amid Mr. Ryan’s rocking musical selections.
The airbase where the hangar is situated is also home to Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, home to the 179th Airlift Wing.
Warm-up speakers were quick to point out that before President Obama landed at the base in August en route to a campaign stop, his defense budget called for shuttering the installation.
But for Congress intervening, “these planes would already be mothballed and the 179th would not have a mission,” Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told the crowd.
A White House spokesman later said the President was “committed to working” with the Defense Department to prevent the closure. It was a promise that didn’t ring true with Sunday’s crowd. Many support the local Guardsmen, who flew missions in Afghanistan and are currently supporting the cleanup efforts in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in the Northeast.
Ohio Sen. Larry Obhof (R., Medina) said that Mr. Obama’s auto bailout did not help Mansfield because the General Motors Co. stamping plant in a neighboring town closed, taking with it hundreds of jobs.
Mr. Ryan started by greeting old friends he said he’d made in his years at Miami University, where he got his economics degree. He pointed out several in the audience. “So I've been hearing about Mansfield, Ohio, since I was 18 years old,” he said. “So nice to meet you all.”
The Republican vice-presidential candidate also jumped on Mr. Obama’s “reckless” defense spending cuts, the ones that put the airbase in danger of closing.
Defense spending seems to be “the only place he is actually willing to cut,” Mr. Ryan said.
He said the President is doing exactly what he complained about his opponents doing last election — running away from his record, not on it. “We cannot afford four more years, we can only afford two more days,” Mr. Ryan said.
As the event cleared out, Mr. Portman said that small-town markets are important for the campaign. Recent polls have shown how much “swing” possibility there is.
Richland County, which supported John McCain with 55.7 percent of its votes in 2008, ate up Mr. Ryan’s speech.
“I think this motivates them to do more,” Mr. Portman said.
Though there may not seem to be many undecided voters, Mr. Portman said he thought there were some, milling around at the back of the crowd. Those are the people he tries to talk to.
And those are the folks he thinks Mr. Ryan can still reach, with the parallels he makes with the people of his hometown of Janesville, Wis. — which also has suffered economically — and them.
“I think people appreciate that,” Mr. Portman said. “This town could use a shot in the arm.”