Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is set to make the case Wednesday that President Obama's policies have done little to promote upward mobility and help the poorest Americans. His speech at Cleveland State University comes less than two weeks before the election, as Republicans make a final push to show that their tax plan can lower tax rates and cut the deficit without hurting middle- and lower-class Americans.
According to excerpts released by his campaign staff, Ryan will say that "America's engines of upward mobility aren't working the way they should ... It's not just the abuses of government that undermine civil society - it's also the excesses of government. Look at the road we are on, with trillion-dollar deficits every year. Debt on this scale is destructive in so many ways, and one of them is that it crowds out civil society by drawing resources away from private giving."
Ryan planned to highlight the rarely told story of Romney's time as a lay leader in the Mormon Church, during which he gained a reputation for going out of his way to help people.
"As for Mitt Romney, he not only understands the importance of community, he's lived it," Ryan will say, according to the excerpts. "He's a guy who, at the height of a successful business, took the time to serve as a lay pastor for his church for 14 years, counseling people in Boston's inner city neighborhoods, especially when they lost a job. He's a man who could easily have contented himself with giving donations to needy causes, but everyone who knows him will tell you that Mitt has always given his time and attention to those around him who are hurting."
Ryan may also criticize Obama for an administration proposal to allow states more flexibility in how they meet work requirements in the federal welfare program, a move that Republicans have said "guts" the 1996 welfare reform law. The Wisconsin congressman returned to Washington in late September to join House Republicans in voting to block the change.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has written several austere spending blueprints that critics say would shred the social safety net. Polls show GOP nominee Mitt Romney on the losing end of questions about empathy and protecting the middle class.
The Ryan speech is clearly designed to bolster the ticket on that front. An aide said, however, that the points Ryan is making are not new. "Ryan has been delivering variants of this message for years," the aide said, citing Ryan's mentor, Jack Kemp, the former Republican congressman, housing secretary, and vice presidential candidate.
Before his speech, Ryan was scheduled to meet with Ohio community leaders for a roundtable discussion.