NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio (AP) — Starting a two-day bus tour of Ohio's small towns and cities, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan told voters Saturday that President Barack Obama hasn't made the case he deserves a second term.
Ryan planned stops at a factory and a bakery, a couple of high schools and a dairy on his first day of this campaign swing through Ohio, a state that has become the lynchpin of Republican Mitt Romney's presidential bid. Romney and Ryan appeared together on Friday night at a high school sports field and, after weather threatened Romney's schedule on Sunday in Virginia, the campaign announced the pair would continue their schedule together in Ohio instead.
Their goal: Try to connect with working class voters the GOP needs if it is to deny Obama a second term on Nov. 6.
"We cannot afford four more years like these last four years," Ryan told 1,000 supporters who huddled on the cold factory floor of Gradall Industries in eastern Ohio. "And we don't have to."
Ryan set out on his 400-mile tour of Ohio under gray skies and rain, beginning a swing where he would lay the blame for the nation's struggling economy solely at Obama's doorstep. While Ohio has an unemployment rate lower than the national average, Ryan has argued that the state's relative fortunes are despite Obama, not because of him.
"He can't run on his record. The Obama economic agenda failed not because it was stopped; it failed because it was passed," Ryan said.
Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin and the top Republican budget writer in the House, said voters need to consider how they want to feel when they wake up the day after the election.
"Think about Nov. 7. Think about how you will feel the next morning when you wake up and turn on the TV," Ryan said. "Are we going to have four more years like the last four years? Are we going to wait four years before we have real change?"
Time, for sure, is ticking for Romney and Ryan. Polls show the race close here and both campaigns' internal polls show Romney's uptick slowing or stalled. The GOP ticket needs another boost if it is to overtake Obama, who has an advantage in the number of staffers in this state and his efforts to bank thousands of votes early.
"As Ohio goes, so goes America. I think you know that," Ryan said in Zanesville, repeating the reminder that no Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio.
To that end, Ryan is appealing in purely parochial terms, promising a revived economy if the GOP ticket prevails.
"Thank you for making the American manufacturing sector proud," he said in a region that once was a hub but has struggled in recent years.
He blamed Obama for losses in the manufacturing sector, ignoring the larger economic slowdown that had reduced demand for goods and China's rising role in that area.
"We have lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs just in the last four years, 38,000 in just the last two months," Ryan said.
He also sought to connect personally with the local voters, comparing this Appalachian region to his hometown of Janesville, Wis.
"Where I come from is so similar to here in New Philadelphia," he said. "We were kind of a one-factory town."
Then, the General Motors plant there closed and residents who counted on good-paying jobs to always be available had to take lower-paying jobs.
He cited a friend who went from making $25 an hour with benefits to $9 an hour without.
"That's the story of the American economy right now," Ryan said. "That's the story that will end on Nov. 6 when we turn this thing around."
Ryan even employed sports to win over voters.
"We come from Big Ten country," he said to applause before turning to the University of Wisconsin-Ohio State rivalry. "I'm just happy the Badgers and Buckeyes play after the election."