Colorado delegates united around Ryan’s nomination as Veep

Day 3 of the RNC
The Colorado Statesman

TAMPA – Colorado delegates and guests effused over GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan when he accepted the nomination on Wednesday even as critics hammered the Wisconsin congressman’s speech for a litany of inaccuracies and misleading statements.

“We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead,” an energetic Ryan pledged as the packed floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum teemed with exuberant Republicans who drowned the arena in cheers nearly every time he took a breath. “We will not spend four years blaming others; we will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles; we will reapply our founding principles.”

As Ryan embraced his wife and three children on stage, basking in the adulation the convention excitement still surged throughout the hall, some Colorado delegates looked almost dazed from what they had just witnessed, but the verdict sounded unanimous.

“I think Paul Ryan did exactly what he needed to do,” said Colorado delegate Paul Archer minutes after Ryan had finished. “He painted the perfect contrast. We have a president who wants to blame his predecessor, and we have two men who want to look to the future and who promise that they’re not going to blame the past, they’re going to look to the future. What we hear from the other campaign is about everything they inherited, and demagoguing success.”

Archer noted that he doesn’t listen to the same music as Ryan, who said his iPod playlist “starts with AC/DC and it ends with (Led) Zeppelin” — different from the playlist favored by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose musical taste Ryan described in his speech as more appropriate to hotel elevators — pronounced the Romney-Ryan pairing exactly the right medicine for an ill economy.

“We have two men who are going to come in and fix things. That’s what we need. He was right on message, he did exactly what he needed to do tonight,” Archer said with a broad smile.

Lauding Ryan’s “chemistry” with Romney, Douglas County delegate Keri Brehm said she was just as enthralled with the candidate as she had been weeks ago when she saw him speak at a rally at Lakewood High School.

“I think he’s a problem-solver, I think he’s a can-do guy,” she said. “He understands budgets and can crunch numbers, and I think we really need that now.”

Another Colorado delegate heaped praise on Ryan’s aggressive speech, which she said would sharply delineate the Republican ticket from the Democrats.

“I think it put in perspective the themes of the campaign going forward,” said Colorado delegate Frieda Wallison, who also chairs the Pitkin County Republican Party. “There’s a choice in this election. You can either accept the same path that we’re on now, or you can, as a voter, understand that there’s a different way of proceeding that should lead to prosperity.

In perhaps his most memorable line — it was the one that members of the Colorado delegation repeated to each other during the long bus ride back to the hotel that night — Ryan sounded a familiar charge struck throughout the convention, that President Barack Obama’s promises of hope and change had floundered on a stalled economy, and that it was OK for his fans to look elsewhere for a solution.

“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” he said.

Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee and is known as the author of budgets — passed by the Republican-dominated House but ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate — that radically redraw the nation’s spending priorities with an aim toward balancing the federal budget in future decades.

But even as the cheers still echoed in the convention hall, media critics were falling over themselves to point out numerous errors spoken by Ryan — CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted on the air that the speech included “at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute” — and even the usually cautious Associated Press determined that the speech had been filled with “factual shortcuts.”

Among the claims that came under fire was an attack on Obama for shuttering a General Motors plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., even though the plant closed under President George W. Bush months before Obama took office. He blasted Obama for failing to support a deficit-reduction report without noting that he had voted against the recommendations himself as a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission. He also said that Obama was responsible for Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. government debt last summer, when S&P blamed House Republicans led by Ryan for causing the historic downgrade by politicizing a routine debt-ceiling vote.

The morning after the speech, a top Republican fired back at the overnight reviews of Ryan’s speech, which focused as much on its accuracy as they did on its galvanizing effect.

Talking to reporters after he addressed the Colorado delegation on Thursday morning, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said it was the media — including CNN, his employer — that was lying in its critiques of Ryan’s facts.

“I’m sorry to report, but the statements that said it wasn’t true, those statements aren’t true,” Fleischer said.

Addressing one charge — that Ryan attacked Obama for the same changes to Medicare spending that he included in his own budget — Fleischer said that Ryan had it right.

“There is no question about it that this administration took money out of Medicare intended to go to doctors and hospitals to provide services and used it to pay for Obamacare. It’s as true as true as true can get,” he said.

As a member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, Fleischer maintained, Ryan voted against the commission report because it didn’t address “big entitlement-drivers of the deficit,” which he said marks the budget-hawk as “intellectually consistent.”

“He supports what Simpson-Bowles represents, but it, itself, fell short, which is a far cry from anything President Obama has done on it,” a combative Fleischer told reporters.

Before responding to questions about Ryan’s truthfulness, Fleischer gave the 42-year-old fitness buff a ringing review.

“It’s a repackaging of the Republican brand in such an invigorating, uplifting, optimistic way. Paul Ryan is an injection of intellectual conservatism and excitement, optimism into the Republican Party, that’s what I love about him. It’s economic adrenaline, and that’s what our country needs,” he said.

Ryan’s snappy debut on the national stage capped the third official day of the RNC, as party officials worked to put arguments over Ron Paul delegates and controversial changes to GOP rules behind them and focus on a seven-week sprint to the November election.

The day’s star-studded line-up also included speeches by Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Thune, Pawlenty and Rice were among the convention A-listers who addressed Colorado Republicans at sponsored breakfasts during the week at a Clearwater hotel before the delegation made its way across Tampa Bay to the convention. Martinez’ delegation was quartered at the same hotel as Colorado’s, though New Mexico delegates said they weren’t sure if she was spending much of her time there.

Watching the speech from the packed floor — along with his wife and two children, including a remarkably calm 1-year-old son — U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner said he could attest to Ryan’s intellectual heft and finely detailed knowledge.

“Paul Ryan brings a level of solutions to this ticket — quite frankly, to this race — that we needed. (He’s) someone who understands the budget, someone who understands the economy better than anybody but Romney himself. The fact is that I have seen Paul Ryan explain to the president why his policies have failed, in a way that every American can understand,” Gardner told The Colorado Statesman.

The addition of the much-younger Ryan to the Romney ticket marks a refreshing injection of new blood onto the national stage, Gardner said.

“If you look at the next generation of Republicans, far and away the Republican side of the aisle in the House is younger than the Democrat side. If you look at the bench around the country, the youth in the Republican Party, the diversity in the Republican Party, it’s exciting to see. He does represent that new generation, that next generation of Republicans coming into the limelight.”

Then, with a grin, Gardner made a prediction: “If I were President Obama and Joe Biden, I’m going to remember this night, because this is the beginning of the end of their presidential careers.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com