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Paul Ryan: Mitt Romney won’t ‘duck tough issues’

Updated: October 1, 2012 5:12PM

TAMPA, Fla. — Fiscal hawk and Tea Party darling Paul Ryan may be young, but in a primetime address Wednesday night, he assured Republicans he is more than ready to help Mitt Romney lead the nation out of an economic mess he blamed squarely on President Barack Obama and “a presidency adrift.”

“Here is our pledge. We will not duck the tough issues — we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others — we will take responsibility,” Ryan said in a powerful, emotional address.

In the biggest political speech of his life, the 42-year-old GOP vice presidential nominee with the piercing blue eyes and boyish looks, showed he wasn’t afraid to take off the gloves, again and again thrashing Obama for a struggling economy and declaring what Republicans call “Obamacare” a miserable, American failure. 

Ryan, repeatedly harkened back to the buoyant time when Obama took control of the White House with “the thrill of something new.” Now, he said, that record stands four years later as a heartbreaking disappointment to the American public.

“Now, all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s steely sales pitch for a Romney presidency came on a night when Republicans tailored their convention message to appeal to veterans and Hispanic voters and included several party fixtures in the windup to Ryan, including 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Here’s the question, without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different than the last four years?” Ryan asked. 

Ryan, among the youngest vice presidential candidates in U.S. history, struck just the right tone, said former Romney opponent Newt Gingrich.

“I think he did exactly what we needed,” Gingrich said after the speech.

Ryan highlighted his youth, among the traits that made him attractive to Romney.

Ryan said he was a “full generation apart” from his running mate, a gap he said is evident in the music both listen to on their iPods.

“There are songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard in the campaign bus, and I’ve heard it in many hotel elevators,” he said, provoking laughter throughout the convention hall. 

Ryan of Janesville, Wis., described himself as a Wisconsinite to the core. 

He weaved in a personal narrative that aimed to connect with average Americans and address the criticism often heaped on Romney for being too wealthy and out of touch. 

Ryan talked about waiting on tables. He introduced his mother, wife and three children. He talked about his small town roots and how today he still lives on the same block where he grew up.

“My dad, a small town lawyer was also named Paul. Until we lost him when I was 16, he was a gentle presence in my life,” he said. “I’d like to think he’d be proud of me and my sister and brothers.  Because you know what, I’m sure proud of him and where I came from, Janesville, Wis.”

Ryan began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999. As the House Committee Budget Chairman, Ryan is hailed by Republicans as the architect of a GOP budget blueprint that opponents have criticized as having cuts crippling to Medicare. 

Ryan won an extended standing ovation as he blasted Obamacare, vowing a repeal. 

“Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country,” he said to a thunderous stadium.

Ryan concluded his speech with a roaring crescendo, promising to fix an economy that four years of an Obama administration has failed to do.

“We can do this,” Ryan shouted, as the cheering grew. “We can get this country working again. We can get this economy growing again.

“We can do this. Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Join Mitt Romney and me. Let’s give this every effort we have,” he said, bringing the hall to a frenzied standing ovation. “Let’s see this thing through.”

Before Ryan, a couple of major themes threaded through the night, including the economy and veterans, featuring speeches from a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General, an Iraqi war veteran as well as McCain, once a prisoner of war.

Addressing a packed convention hall on this 76th birthday, McCain, a GOP presidential candidate in 2000 and 2008, bashed Obama’s handling of foreign policy and conflicts abroad, saying instead it was Mitt Romney whom he trusted with life and death decisions.

“I trust Mitt Romney to know that good can triumph over evil, that justice can vanquish tyranny, that love can conquer hate, that the desire for freedom is eternal and universal, and that America is still the best hope of mankind,” McCain said.

It was the seventh time that McCain had addressed a political convention.

McCain blamed Obama for failures abroad, including in Iran, where McCain said Obama “missed a historic opportunity,” to throw the country’s support behind the Iranian revolution.

“We are now being tested by an array of threats that are more complex, more numerous and just as deadly as any I can recall in my lifetime,” McCain (R-Arizona) said. “We face a consequential choice — and make no mistake, it is a choice.”

In a soaring voice, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touched on the need for immigration reform, school choice and a foreign policy built upon free trade and a strong defense — and emphatically stressed Romney and Ryan were the ones to tackle those priorities.

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home, and they will help us lead abroad,” Rice said. “They will provide an answer to the question of where does American stand.”

Rice also touched spoke of the need to reform schools, particularly for kids, many of whom were minority, who were trapped in terrible neighborhood schools. “This is the civil rights issue of our day.”

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