Ryan Tries To Draw Out Pennsylvania's Red Side

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan campaigned solo in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, one day after campaigning with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour in Pennsylvania. When it comes to presidential elections, the state has been reliably blue, but Mitt Romney and his new running mate hope to change that. Paul Ryan held two events in Pennsylvania today, while Romney was raising money out of the public spotlight. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports from the campaign trail.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: With 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania could be the second biggest swing state in the country - that is, if Pennsylvania really is a swing state. The last time the state chose a Republican for president was 24 years ago.

DAVID FREED: National pundits think that we can't win Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney.

SHAPIRO: At a rally outside Pittsburgh this morning, Dave Freed, who's running for Pennsylvania attorney general, said the pundits are wrong.

FREED: Let me tell you, I'm out there every day, all over this state - northwest, southwest, southeast, central Pennsylvania. The energy that's in this room is similar all over this state.

SHAPIRO: And there was a lot of energy in the steel processing plant. Even more when Paul Ryan ran in swinging a bright yellow Terrible Towel over his head for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. The music, "We're Not Gonna Take It."

PAUL RYAN: Hey, hey, hey, hey. How about it, huh? Man.

SHAPIRO: A couple thousand people chanted: Here we go, Ryan, here we go.

RYAN: All right.

CROWD: (Chanting) Here we go, Ryan, here we go. Here we go, Ryan, here we go.

RYAN: Thanks, man.

SHAPIRO: Ryan accused President Obama of slicing up the American pie and deciding who gets how big a piece. And he said that's not the job of government.

RYAN: The job of government is to set the conditions for economic growth so we can grow the pie and everybody can get a bigger slice of the American pie through economic growth, through opportunity, through achievement, upward mobility.

SHAPIRO: He reminded the audience of a comment the president made four years ago at a fundraiser about people who cling to guns and religion.

RYAN: Hey, I'm a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion.

SHAPIRO: Paul Ryan brings a different kind of energy to a rally than Mitt Romney. You would never see Romney run in swinging a towel over his head, and the conservative base loves the guy. Dan Mahon was never too fired up about Romney.

DAN MAHON: I like Ryan more than Romney, but that's my personal opinion. I'm a Catholic. I'm more social conservative than I believe Romney is.

SHAPIRO: He's also an electrician, the kind of white, blue-collar, working class guy that neither Romney nor the president has really connected with. Peggy Donnelly of Lebanon, Pennsylvania believes the likeability and enthusiasm that Ryan brings to the ticket will finally flip this blue state red.

PEGGY DONNELLY: I've made signs. I'm gonna make phone calls, energize people to see the truth. That's the problem. People aren't telling the truth. Medicare, 55 years and up will not be touched. That's their swan song - everybody's gonna lose it. People have to know the truth. I'm gonna speak the truth. I'm excited for our state. We're gonna take it back.

SHAPIRO: Recent polls show President Obama with roughly a six-point lead in the state. He was here on a bus tour in July, and Romney came through Pennsylvania that month too. According to data from National Journal, the Obama campaign and an outside group supporting him have spent almost $8 million on ads in Pennsylvania. The Romney campaign has spent none, though conservative outside groups have spent close to $9 million on ads.

That suggests both sides believe the state is in play this year, despite its long blue history. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Ryan campaign.

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