Hecklers Interrupt Ryan At Iowa State Fair Stop

On Monday, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan made his first solo campaign trip since being named Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate. Ryan went to the Iowa State where candidates are a common sight. Ryan drew a big crowd but it wasn't always friendly.

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Congressman Paul Ryan has made his first solo campaign trip as part of the Romney-Ryan ticket. Ryan went to the Iowa State Fair yesterday, a place where the food is fried and often on a stick, where candidates are a common sight and where politicians are face-to-face with voters. Ryan drew a big crowd, though it wasn't always friendly one.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was there.

(APPLAUSE)

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Fairgoers cheered as Paul Ryan stepped out of his SUV on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair. The newly minted running mate was greeted by Governor Terry Branstad and a group of Republican officeholders. The entourage strolled down the Grand Concourse, as cameras and reporters jockeyed for a view. Ryan, a well-known fitness nut, did not provide the shot many had hoped for. He skipped the fried-foods. He also avoided reporter's questions with a line he used a few times as he walked.

PAUL RYAN: We'll play "Stump the Running Mate" later. I'm just going to enjoy this fair right now.

GONYEA: He walked and talked to voters, many of whom didn't know who he was. But Ryan's visit had been publicized in advance, and when he got to the tiny stage - known as the soapbox - that was the site of his speech, a huge crowd had gathered. Ryan is from neighboring Wisconsin, and he broke the ice with football.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RYAN: Are there any Packer fans here?

All right. Cool. Hey everybody, how you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Fine.

RYAN: Thanks so much. What a beautiful day to be at the state fair.

GONYEA: Right away, Ryan launched a critique of President Obama, showing his willingness to play the role of attack dog, a longtime tradition for vice-presidential candidates.

Now, the president was also in Iowa yesterday, and would drop by the fair hours after Ryan had left. But back to Ryan's speech, just as he was attacking the president, a heckler in the crowd shouted: Are you going to cut Medicare? Other Hecklers began yelling more questions. Ryan stopped for just a moment. Then...

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RYAN: I think it's...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Are you going to cut Medicare?

RYAN: I think it's become...

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTING, CROWD CHATTER)

...so...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER, CROWD CHATTER)

You know what?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER, CROWD CHATTER)

It's funny. 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: The heckling continued through much of the 12-minute speech. It couldn't have been a surprise to the campaign, given that on this same stage, during the Iowa State Fair one year ago, Mitt Romney himself was heckled, prompting him to say the now oft-quoted line: Corporations are people, my friend.

Yesterday, Ryan supporters countered the hecklers with their own chant. Ryan, meanwhile, plowed ahead, eventually finishing his attack on the president.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RYAN: But as you see the president comes through on his bus tour...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Stop the war.

RYAN: ...you might ask him the same question that I'm getting asked from people around America, and that is: Where are the jobs, Mr. President?

GONYEA: Ryan did not talk about Medicare in his speech. He did ask voters - in a state that was so important to President Obama's success four years ago - to turn to the Republicans this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RYAN: We'll get our country back on track. Help us win this thing. Help us bring this state to the Mitt Romney column. Do this because we will look back at this moment in time and...

GONYEA: Ultimately, it was a noisy and somewhat chaotic welcome to Congressman Paul Ryan on his first day campaigning on his own, on behalf of the new Romney-Ryan ticket.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Des Moines.

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