Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan attacked President Obama’s policies on jobs and energy on Saturday morning during a quick stop near Pittsburgh International Airport.
The rally between appearances in the election battlegrounds of Florida and Ohio highlights what analysts consider a renewed emphasis on Pennsylvania as polls show the gap narrowing between Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Ryan made a dramatic entry, walking on stage right off the plane at Atlantic Aviation in Moon and saying: “We are going to win Pennsylvania, and we are going to win this election.” Supporters twirled yellow Romney-Ryan towels in Terrible Towel fashion. The Secret Service estimated the crowd at 1,000.
The seven-term congressman from Wisconsin warned that Obama’s energy policies were hurting Americans, telling supporters to look no further than the gas pump for evidence.
“Look, gas prices are more than double what they were four years ago. Who knows what they’re going to be if he got four more years,” Ryan said.
“Not only are these policies wrong, not only do these policies cost us jobs, not only do they mean that American energy dollars go to the Middle East; they are keeping us from having a boon,” he said. “They are keeping us from having jobs. They are keeping us from making our paychecks stretch farther.”
Democrats responded before Ryan even landed.
“If we’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, we have learned that Mitt Romney will say anything to get elected,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said as he stood with fellow Democrats at a small rally in the Airside Business Park. About 20 people attended the rally 90 minutes before Ryan spoke.
“Trying to cover up his own record, because over the last six years, he ran as a severely conservative candidate, and now just a few weeks before the election, he’s trying to turn himself into ‘Moderate Mitt.’ ”
Ryan’s visit was the first to Western Pennsylvania by either side in the campaign since August.
Sean Hankey, 27, of Ford City said he thinks Romney-Ryan is the right ticket.
“We have to make some solid fiscal decisions to slow our growing debt and plan for the future,” said Hankey, a banker who recently bought a home. He said this is the first time he’s really excited about voting in a presidential election.
“I think that Ryan has it correct on jobs and the energy sector’s potential for growth and that can only mean good things down the road for our region,” he said.
Matt Goda of Wexford said he usually spends his Saturday mornings sleeping in.
“We were here at 8:15 this morning, we were so excited to see Ryan speak,” said Goda, 18, a freshman at Robert Morris University in Moon.
He was joined by classmates Robert Byers and Kevin Klust. Goda and his classmates countered the argument that young people lean toward the Democrats.
“I couldn’t be more supportive of Mitt Romney’s policies, and I just think Ryan’s fiscal plans for the future are spot on,” he said.
After the event in Moon, Ryan went to a rally in Valley View Campground in Belmont, Ohio.