Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 | 7:44 p.m.
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Like fireworks waiting for their fuse to be lit, an estimated 2,000 people braved sweltering heat and long security lines Tuesday afternoon with giddy enthusiasm to get their first glimpse of Rep. Paul Ryan in his new role as running mate for presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Ryan was not scheduled to speak until just before 5 p.m., but the gymnasium at Palo Verde High School was nearly full by 3 p.m., and the crowd’s excited anticipation only grew as the Palo Verde band pumped them up with drum-heavy tunes.
When Ryan did take the stage, the crowd erupted. Several times during the seven-term congressman’s 20-minute speech, the crowd boomed with applause, rattling the rafters.
“This election is going to fly by in the next 80 or so days,” said Ryan, wearing khaki pants and a collared blue-and-white checkered shirt. “But what you are going to see and what we are now seeing from the president is nothing more than division and demagoguery. We are going to offer optimism and opportunity. We have a president who, like a lot of people, is more worried about their next election than they are the next generation.”
Ryan, who represents a district of about 700,000 in Wisconsin’s southeast corner, is chairman of the House Budget Committee and, among other things, is known for his budget proposal and fiscal plan dubbed “The Path to Prosperity.”
“All of these government programs, all of these endless bailouts by the president, all of these regulations, they are not putting people back to work,” said Ryan, who has been a consistent voice for limiting government spending and entitlement reform but also voted for the troubled asset relief program (TARP), assistance for U.S. auto companies, expansion of Medicare under George W. Bush, and the 2008 and 2009 stimulus packages. “They are not helping Nevada’s recovery and they are not getting Nevada’s economy back on track, and we need to change that.”
Standing on a large stage with a backdrop of the Nevada and U.S. flags and several rows of supporters, Ryan pointed to Romney’s business experience as a key asset for the ticket.
“We have a candidate in Mitt Romney who knows how businesses are created, how jobs are created,” Ryan said. “We have a man with firsthand experience who knows that if you have a small business, you did build that small business.”
The line, referring to a speech by President Barack Obama during which he expressed that the integrated nature of society means that everyone receives assistance during their lives, received some of the most vociferous applause of the day.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Obama said during a July campaign stop in Virginia. “There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together.”
After Ryan wrapped up his speech, he shook hands with those onstage and then went into the crowd to greet more supporters.
The crowd filtered out and snapped pictures in front of the Romney-Ryan tour bus.
Darlene Aurich, a Romney supporter and Las Vegas resident, said she “loved” the former Massachusetts governor’s choice for vice president.
“He has a lot of good ideas,” she said of Ryan. “Romney could have chosen from a lot of good candidates for vice president, but I think he chose one of the best.”
Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is in a race for a U.S. Senate seat with Sen. Dean Heller, stopped at Palo Verde High School hours before Ryan’s visit to offer her perspective on what a Romney-Ryan ticket meant for the country and the Silver State.
Berkley argued that the budget-reduction target Romney and Ryan have placed on public aid programs such as Social Security and Medicare would devastate seniors and middle- and low-income families.
Berkley also criticized Ryan’s stance on the issue of reproductive rights, limiting abortion and the use of contraception, and his vote against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that extends the statute of limitations on fair pay lawsuits.
“This election is going to be a watershed for this country of what our priorities are,” Berkley said. “Who do you stand with? Where does Paul Ryan stand? With corporations that ship jobs overseas and with big oil companies making record profits. He wants to increase and continue the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires in this country. I stand with the middle-income families, people who call Nevada home. … Paul Ryan’s priorities are not mine because they are not the priorities of the people I represent.”
After the event, Ryan was scheduled to have a private meeting with Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, who, along with his wife, has given $10 million to Restore Our Future, a political action committee that supports Mitt Romney.