There was no question Sunday: Presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney energized a Wisconsin conservative voting base by adding Wisconsin native Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic snaked along Highway 164 in Pewaukee all the way to the gates of the Waukesha County Expo Center. An estimated 13,000 supporters gathered to get a glimpse of the new Republican duo they hope to send to the White House in November.
“What a homecoming for a terrific guy. I guess you think I made the right choice?” Romney asked the crowd – which responded with roars of approval. “I know I did.”
Romney announced Ryan would be his running mate Saturday in Virginia, and the pair immediately hit the ground running making two campaign stops in North Carolina Sunday before attending a homecoming rally in Waukesha – a city that’s long been a stronghold for Republicans.
“It is good to be home. I tell you, I love Wisconsin,” Ryan said to a fired up crowd. “What we learned in this state just a little while ago is that we want to elect men and women into office who tell us who they are, what they are going to do, and when they are elected – they do that. That’s what we do here in Wisconsin.”
State Republican heavyweights were in full attendance as Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Rep. Sean Duffy, Rep. Tom Petri, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and more spoke before Romney and Ryan. All four GOP candidates for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat were also shaking hands with voters and getting on the cameras.
Walker was often cited by speakers as an inspiration for what kind of leadership the country needs. Ryan told the crowd that it was time to replicate the conservative successes demonstrated in Wisconsin on the national level.
“We’ve seen a few elections in Wisconsin lately. We’re ready. We’re tested. Our leaders fixed the problems in Madison, and we as voters said (are going) to keep doing it,” Ryan said. “On June 5, courage was on the ballot in Wisconsin and courage won. We Wisconsinites saved Wisconsin. On Nov. 6, we Wisconsinites will help save America.”
Romney touted Ryan’s ability to reach across the aisle in Washington, his acumen with budgets, and his strength in conducting negotiations with honesty. Romney said they will need those skills to restore America, and bring it back into economic prosperity.
“This is another big step to restore America. I wanted someone who was a leader. This is a man who has passion for America, and has what it takes to get America on track,” Romney said. “This is a campaign about America’s future. So Mr. President, time to take your campaign out of the gutter and let’s talk about the real issues that people are facing.”
Romney once again outlined his five steps to getting the country on track. He proposed increasing education options for workers. Second, he wants to maximize energy resources like wind, solar, natural gas, and coal. Romney said cutting federal spending and balancing the budget, championing small business, and reforming trade regulations were the remaining three.
“We are not going to change America into something we don’t recognize. We are going to restore it to what made us the shining city on the hill,” Romney said.
Republicans Praise a Romney-Ryan Ticket
Perhaps they were a bit biased, but Wisconsin Republicans were united Sunday in their approval of Romney’s pick for vice president.
“The Romney and Ryan ticket is a dream ticket, and it’s a dream ticket that’s going to end the Obama nightmare. It will finally put the grown ups in charge,” said Rep. Sean Duffy.
For Wisconsin Republicans, a healthy dose of Wisconsin leadership is what’s needed to turn the entire country around. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch remarked that future generations will take notice of what’s happening up in Wisconsin.
“When America needs help, Wisconsin’s leaders step up,” Kleefisch said. “When children a generation later look back at 2012, they’re going to wonder what was in the water in Wisconsin. Romney and Ryan are going to give Obama the R&R he really needs.”
Walker, who survived two elections in one year, received a hero’s welcome at the Expo Center Sunday. Reince Preibus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, dubbed Walker the greatest governor in the country. Walker kept his commentary short.
“Isn’t great to have a cheesehead on the ballot?” Walker said. “On June 5 we stood on this ground and claimed a victory – not for a candidate – but for the taxpayers of the great state of Wisconsin. On Nov. 6, we’ll claim victory for not just the taxpayers of Wisconsin, but of this nation.”
Voters Approve Romney’s VP Pick
Wisconsin Republicans were ecstatic over Ryan being named running mate to Romney, in the GOP fight to the White House against Obama.
For Waukesha County Register of Deeds Jim Behrend, it is a chance to see someone he’s known for 20 years rise up through the ranks. Even as a young, 20-something man in Wisconsin, Ryan was successful, “a cut above everyone else,” Behrend said during a rally supporting former Gov. Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate.
“I just like somebody who can speak so eloquently on economics,” Behrend said. “I think that is where it is at and we never seem to get there. I think from Wisconsin’s perspective, I think we have a good chance of taking the state for Romney. I think if we do, there is no scenario where we won’t win nationally.”
Seniors present at the rally weren't fearful of losing their medicare as opponents have maintained would happen under Ryan's budget plan, either. Phyllis Ecker from Milwaukee, who is 79, said "statements meant to scare us seniors have just been stupid. I was part of the campaign to help elect (John F.) Kennedy, and that was the last time I supported a democrat."
Linda Carrivau of Sheboygan made the trek to the Waukesha County Expo with thousands of others from southeastern Wisconsin.
“I think Paul Ryan is a great pick,” Carrivau said. “He is eloquent. He has got a plan. He has a solid outlook on the economy.”
After the rally, voters weren’t any less enthusiastic.
Nick Jablonski, a political science student who plans to attend University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall, said he enjoyed with the rally and was happy that it wasn’t too negative against Obama.
“I thought it was fair and balanced between their plan for the future and showing the difference between the two sets of candidates,” Jablonski said. “I think it makes Wisconsin more in play, but I would say it is still going to be an uphill battle with the swing states.”
Mary Goodman of Glendale said she was proud to see “a choice from Wisconsin as intelligent as Paul Ryan.”
“I think Obama just lost Wisconsin,” Goodman said.
Dems Raise a Shout, Romney Fires Back
The Republicans' party wasn’t without guests from across the aisle, and they attempted to make themselves heard during Romney’s speech. An Obama supporter screamed near the front of the crowd demanding Romney address Bain Capital’s involvement with Sensata.
Romney’s former company owns Sensata, a Freeport, Ill.-based firm. Workers are currently protesting layoffs, which are expected to occur in November.
Several shouters were quickly escorted out of the assembly by police officers amid jeers from others in the crowd. Romney also fired back at the group that attempted to disrupt the rally.
“We believe in listening to people with dignity and respect. Young man, you’ll need to find somewhere else to be disruptive,” said Romney, singling out one of the shouters.
A small contingent of Obama supporters also gathered outside the gates to the Expo Center, but went largely ignored by those entering the rally.