(CBS News) GREENVILLE, N.C. - As Democrats head to Charlotte to nominate President Obama for a second term, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan made an appearance on the other side of the state to hammer home his message that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.
"We're gonna hear a lot of words from Charlotte this week. But here's the kind of words we're not gonna hear. We're not gonna hear evidence and facts about how people are better off," Ryan told a crowd of over 2,000 people at East Carolina University. "You see, the president cannot run on this record. He's run out of ideas. And so that is why he's going to be running a campaign based on envy and division, based on frustration and anger."
Ryan led the Republican messaging effort on Monday while nominee Mitt Romney was out of the public eye preparing for the presidential debates. Ryan's remarks were targeted at inconsistent answers over the weekend from top Democrats in response to interview questions about whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago - the quadrennial question that faces incumbents running for reelection. Asked the question, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland answered, "No, but that's not the question of this election."
The Wisconsin congressman told the crowd that Obama's campaign has taken a negative turn, relying on attack ads, because the president has no record to run on.
"Let me quote President Obama four years ago: 'If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.' Ladies and gentleman, that is exactly what Barack Obama is doing today," Ryan said. "In fact, every president since the Great Depression who asked Americans to send them into a second term could say that you are better off today than you were four years ago, except for Jimmy Carter and for President Barack Obama."
He ticked off a list of measures - the unemployment rate, businesses bankruptcy filings, and delinquent mortgage payments - that he said were actually better under Carter than they are now. Carter lost his bid for a second term in 1980 to Republican Ronald Reagan.
"Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now," Ryan said.
He also rebutted an Obama campaign ad released this morning that says Romney's policies will increase taxes on the middle class. "He'll say that we just want tax cuts to go to really wealthy people and at the expense of everybody else," Ryan said. "Here's how this game works in Washington, and by the way, Republicans in the past are just as guilty as Democrats. What happens is, you pay your taxes, you send your money to Washington, and then special interest groups come and they get the little carve-outs in the tax code, and then if you do what Washington approves of, they might give you some of your money back. We just want you to keep your money in the first place."
Ryan said a Romney administration would plug special interest loopholes to allow tax rates to decrease by about 20 percent, but Romney and Ryan have declined to specify which loopholes they would close.