Paul Ryan’s message was clear Tuesday as he campaigned across Pennsylvania: He’s the kind of guy who can relate to voters in small town America. President Barack Obama? Not so much.
Obama, Ryan suggested here, is painfully out of touch with the kind of middle-class families who filled rallies here at a helicopter museum in West Chester and a steel-manufacturing plant in Carnegie in this key state.
Standing on stage in front of a truck carrying a large coil of steel, Ryan revived Obama’s four-year old comment, made at a San Francisco fundraiser in April 2008, that Americans in rural and struggling parts of Pennsylvania “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.”
“Every now and then, President Obama sorta drops his veil. He’s less coy about his philosophy, he sort of reveals his true governing philosophy, what he really believes,” Ryan told more than 2,000 people inside Beaver Steel Services in Carnegie, Pa. “There was this other time, where he was caught on video saying people need to cling to their guns and their religion.”
“Hey, I’m a Catholic deer hunter,” Ryan said. “I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion.”
By bringing back Obama’s comments, Ryan is aiming to appeal to a sector of the GOP electorate that Mitt Romney has been criticized for having trouble relating to. Ryan is a guy from Janesville, Wis., who roots for the Packers, likes to go hunting and noodling and who can reach middle-class audiences.
Ryan’s also proving he has the ability to make policy personal, singling out issues that are directly related to the communities he’s campaigning in.
He took to The Villages, Fla. on Saturday — a vast retirement community in central Florida — with his mother by his side to work to defend his plan to overhaul Medicare. Speaking here on Tuesday he looked to make the topic personal for Pennsylvanians.
“You’re going to hear a lot from President Obama and yes, from Joe Biden, you’re hearing a little bit about Medicare these days,” Ryan said. “What they will not tell you is they turned Medicare into a piggybank to fund ‘Obamacare.’ They took $716 billion dollars to pay for the ‘Obamacare’ program. In Pennsylvania, 38 percent of Pennsylvania seniors chose to get their Medicare from a plan called Medicare Advantage. It’s their choice. Forty-seven percent of them are going to lose it under ‘Obamacare’ according to Medicare by 2017.”
Ryan tried the same tactic with defense cuts, slamming Obama for supporting deep, “irresponsible and devastating” defense cuts that he says are due to a lack of presidential leadership.
“President Obama’s reckless defense cuts that are hanging over our cloud, hanging over the horizon could put almost 44,000 jobs at stake right here in Pennsylvania. we are not going to let that happen. You know why? Because No. 1, national defense is the first priority of the federal government.”
For its part, the Obama campaign seized on Ryan’s comments and slammed the Wisconsin lawmaker for launching “recycled attacks rather than debate the devastating impact that the Romney-Ryan agenda would have on middle-class families.”