Paul Ryan Makes Solo Campaign Debut In Iowa

Don Gonyea talks to Audie Cornish from the Iowa State Fair, where newly-minted GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan campaigned on Monday.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As we mentioned, President Obama was not alone campaigning in Iowa today. Paul Ryan was there too, while Mitt Romney stumped in Florida. In Des Moines, Ryan visited a familiar destination for politicians.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: What a beautiful day to be at the state fair. We have fairs - do you have wristband day here? That's a favorite day for my kids because wristband day, you can buy a wristband and ride all the rides with just one wristband for the whole day.

CORNISH: NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with Congressman Paul Ryan. Hi there, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So some pretty classic campaigning, right, for Congressman Ryan, the Iowa State Fair? Now that he's been there, it's really official.

GONYEA: It's not official till you go to the Iowa State Fair. It's also not official until you actually eat something fried and on a stick. Remember last year, it was deep-fried butter. This year, it's the double bacon corndog. But I do not think he - I don't think he had one of those. He was there just - just barely an hour.

CORNISH: Now, this was Congressman Ryan's first solo campaign event. The stage was all his. How did he use it?

GONYEA: Well, they figure Iowa is a great place for him to start, and the Iowa State Fair has this tradition of candidates, certainly in caucus years, coming through and holding court and speaking at this booth that's run by The Des Moines Register newspaper called the soapbox. And he delivered what was his first - I guess his first official solo stump speech, and we heard a lot about his running mate. Give a listen.

RYAN: We're not creating jobs like we can in America. And that is why Mitt Romney and I have a plan for a stronger middle class to get this country back on track, get this country growing jobs again, and get us back on the path to prosperity in this country.

GONYEA: So pretty basic stump speech up there. We will be hearing that a lot over the next couple of months.

CORNISH: Now, Don, I can hear in the background there, it doesn't sound like an entirely friendly crowd?

GONYEA: Exactly. This is a moment where you might say it was welcome to the arena, Mr. Ryan - Congressman Ryan. You may recall that a year ago, Governor Romney - this was before the caucuses - stepped onto this stage and was heckled relentlessly by people who'd camped out hours in advance. It's where he uttered that line, corporations are people too. Well, much, much the same deal in terms of the audience for Congressman Ryan today. People had camped out and there were a lot of people shouting about how his plan would destroy the middle class and increase taxes, the burden on the middle class. And it was pretty relentless, and it's always a tricky thing for a candidate to deal with that. Give a listen to how Congressman Ryan handled it here.

RYAN: It's funny because Iowans and Wisconsinites, we like to be respectful of one another and peaceful with one another and listen to each other. These ladies must not be from Iowa or Wisconsin.

GONYEA: Now, one thing I can say is, he was game. He soldiered on. The heckling continued through the entire speech, you know, just about 10, 11 minutes, and he just plowed right through to the ending.

CORNISH: So, Don, where does Paul Ryan head next? What does that tell us about how the campaign plans to use him?

GONYEA: I think we can look for him to spend a lot of time in battleground states. From Iowa he's flying to Denver, so he has an event in Colorado tomorrow. Colorado, like Iowa, another one of those states that is really seen as critical to both campaigns. So I think it's early, but this is a pattern that's probably pretty well established already.

CORNISH: NPR's Don Gonyea, traveling with Congressman Paul Ryan. Thanks so much, Don.

GONYEA: All right. Thank you.

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