Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman selected by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his running mate, will bring his tour of the battleground states to Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning with a visit to a family-owned steel-supply company in Allegheny County.
Ryan’s visit will occur as the debate over the economy and the future of Medicare grows louder, and they become key issues in the presidential campaign.
Ryan told the Tribune-Review that Medicare helped our parents and grandparents and must be there for future generations. “To save it, we must reform it, make it stronger,” he said.
Ryan, 42, will hold a rally at Beaver Steel Services in the Rosslyn Farms Industrial Park in Carnegie. Doors will open at 9 a.m., with the event beginning at 11.
His visit is part of a marathon introduction tour that will put the seven-term congressman in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and now Pennsylvania in 10 days.
In Florida, the state with the highest percentage of senior citizens, Ryan on Saturday defended his plan to overhaul Medicare, saying, “You have to reform it for my generation, so it doesn’t go bankrupt when we want to retire.
“We want this debate, we need this debate,” he said in The Villages, a retirement community of more than 44,000 homes about 60 miles northwest of Orlando. “And we are going to win this debate.”
Among those Floridians covered by Medicare is Ryan’s mother, Betty Ryan Douglas, 78, a Lauderdale-by-the-Sea resident who joined her son on stage.
Ryan said his mother “relies” on the federal health insurance program. She “planned her retirement around this promise that the government made her,” he said.
In an emailed statement, Obama for America Pennsylvania Press Secretary Jen Austin wrote, “Pennsylvania simply can’t afford the Romney-Ryan plan to voucherize Medicare and cut its funding, especially in a county with as many seniors as Allegheny.”
The statement said President Obama has strengthened Medicare, and that the Romney-Ryan plan “puts the security of millions of future seniors at risk.”
Ryan’s visit to the steel supply business outside Pittsburgh comes just days before the Republican National Convention begins Aug. 27.
Western Pennsylvania voters, especially small-business owners, are concerned about the direction of the economy, Ryan told the Trib.
“They understand that they have to manage their budgets and expect the same from Washington,” he said.
Tony Treser, president of Beaver Steel, said the family-owned company supplies steel plates to manufacturers within a 300-mile radius of Pittsburgh.
“We began in 1989 with a small shop down the street with my dad, Tony, and my brother Steve,” said Treser, a Republican, of Cranberry.
All seven Treser siblings have worked in the family business over the years, said Treser, 52. “Right now, it is just my brother Kurt and myself. Although my dad, at 76, still comes in and kicks the tires once in a while,” he said.
The company has struggled through the recession — “2009 was the worst,” he said, explaining that it had to lay off hourly workers, and everyone else had to take pay cuts.
“We are working our way back, but it isn’t easy,” he said.
Treser said he did not support Obama in 2008, but he wanted him to do well.
“Once he was elected, I had really hoped he would be a great president,” he said.
But from Treser’s point of view, that has not happened.
“I think he is just spending us to an abyss, and the deficit is in such a mess, the problems we face as a country are unbelievable,” he said.
Keystone College political science professor Jeff Brauer said Ryan’s visit to the Pittsburgh area makes “absolute sense.”
“His election could very well hinge on the voters of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania,” Brauer said. “A high conservative turnout in this region is key to a Romney-Ryan victory in the fall.”
Ryan and Romney — between the two of them — spent three days in neighboring Ohio last week, where Ryan visited his alma mater, Miami University of Ohio in Oxford, before a capacity crowd.
No one will be turned away from the Carnegie rally, officials said, but people wanting to attend are urged to RSVP online at www.mittromney.com/states/pennsylvania.
Brauer said the GOP ticket must continually inform the senior population in this area that it is not touching their Medicare, “just shoring it up for their kids and grandkids.”
“That appeals to the responsible, deficit-minded nature of the people of that all-important region,” he said.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report. Salena Zito is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com.