COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan fired up a crowd in this conservative, military-heavy city on Sunday with a speech that put a twin focus on defense and economic issues.
Sounding hoarse, the Wisconsin congressman kept his speech short but was repeatedly interrupted with cheers, especially when he promised that if he and Mitt Romney are elected on Nov. 6, “We aren’t going to gut our military” — something he suggested President Obama wants to do.
“Peace through strength is not just a slogan,” he said. “It’s not just something we say, it’s what we do. It’s our doctrine.”
He and Romney have proposed increasing military spending and have spoken out against the “sequestration” agreement that was the result of a compromise last year between Obama and Congress. It would slash both civilian and military spending on Jan. 1 if agreement is not reached to lower the deficit. Ryan voted for the plan but has said he never supported the military cuts.
Ryan spoke to about 1,000 people in a cavernous hangar near the Colorado Springs airport. The venue gave him an opportunity for one of the most dramatic entrances at a campaign event this year. As music pumped up the crowd, two enormous doors slid open, revealing Ryan’s white campaign jet immediately behind the hangar, dramatically lit and inscribed with the campaign slogan “Believe in America.” As the crowd cheered, Ryan bounded onto the stage and was introduced.
The speech was part of a two-day Colorado swing for Ryan, focusing on a battleground state where, polls show, Romney and Obama are in a virtual dead heat. Colorado Springs is a Republican stronghold and a military center, with the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Army’s Ft. Carson, and Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases in the city or nearby.
Earlier in the day, Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke to Romney campaign workers in Colorado Springs, urging them not to let up in the last 16 days of the campaign — and to make sure they persuade people to vote early if possible.
After all, Perry said with a sly grin, “You never know when the good Lord’s going to come and take you home.”
The Ryan speech was a hit with Derek Huffman, 45, a carpenter who wore a white T-shirt that said: “Republican — Because not everybody can be on welfare.” But Huffman said he would support almost anyone running against Obama, whom he blamed for the country’s poor economic situation.
“I’ve seen this country take a giant fall in the last four years,” Huffman said. He hated Obama, Huffman added, spicing up the remark with an expletive.
Huffman said he had been forced to lay off four workers in his construction business and knew people who had lost their homes, as well as jobs, during the recession.
“All I know is, I used to have a lot of employees and I used to pay my bills with ease, and it’s all changed,” he said.