Ryan goes on attack as Dem convention kicks off

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event at Kirkwood Community College, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Paul Ryan
Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event at Kirkwood Community College, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

(CBS News) Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Tuesday called President Obama worse than Jimmy Carter, the Democratic president who lost his reelection bid to President Reagan in 1980.

"If we fired Jimmy Carter, then why would we rehire Barack Obama now?" Ryan asked a crowd of nearly 2,000 people in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake Tuesday. "After four years of getting the runaround, what America needs is a turnaround, and the man for that job is Mitt Romney."

Then it was the Democrats' turn to out your-mamma the Republicans. Danny Kanner, spokesman for the Obama campaign, responded by accusing Ryan of opposing the present administration's job creation proposals and labeled him "a congressional rubber stamp for the previous administration" - a reference to former Republican President George W. Bush.

Polls show that many Americans continue to view Mr. Bush as responsible for the recent recession, which means Ryan has to tread carefully in discussions of the most recent Republican president, whose policies he supported.

During an appearance on William Bennett's syndicated radio show Tuesday morning, Ryan said, "As you know, I was raised by Bill Bennett and Jack Kemp, politically and economically and philosophically, which is the Reagan style, and it is different than the past administration and the challenges we have right now are different. And so we're offering very different ideas and a very different governing philosophy.

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"I think they'd like to paste us with the Bush thing because they have nothing else to talk about," he said. "This is sort of what cynical politicians do when they can't run on their record. They try to talk about the other guy in the worst possible light. But we're talking about our agenda."

Ryan continued to lead the GOP's counter-convention messaging Tuesday, with events in both Ohio and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ryan is trying to maximize the political mileage out of the question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" The question draws instant attention to the still-poor U.S. economy, and Obama has not been helped by surrogates who in recent days have acknowledged that many Americans are in fact not better off.

The Wisconsin congressman was sporting a new podium sign with the trademark Obama "O" in the last word of "Are you better off?"

During his afternoon event in Cedar Rapids, Ryan raised the issue of the national debt reaching $16 trillion on Tuesday, calling the development "a serious threat to our economy."

"Of all the broken promises from President Obama, this is probably the worst one, because this debt is threatening jobs today, it is threatening prosperity today and it is guaranteeing that our children and grandchildren get a diminished future," Ryan said. " ... The problem is, the president keeps kicking the can down the road. No leadership on this issue. The Senate hasn't even passed a budget in three years. We have a very clear choice ahead of us."

Republican nominee Mitt Romney was out of the public eye for a second day on Tuesday, traveling to West Windsor, Vt., for a series of debate practice sessions at the sprawling hillside estate of his former lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey. The residence is Healey's vacation home and is valued at $3.9 million, according to the local newspaper, The Valley News.

The extra space will come in handy. Romney has brought a large entourage to Vermont. It includes Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who will portray Obama during the practice sessions, and advisers and strategists Beth Myers, Stuart Stevens, Lanhee Chen, Eric Fehrnstrom, Ed Gillespie, Peter Flaherty, Bob White, Ben Ginsberg, and Ron Kaufman.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.