By PHILIP ELLIOTT, ASSOCIATED PRESS
AURORA, Colo. — Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is planning to tell poor voters they would be better off if he and Mitt Romney win the White House and will urge middle-class and independent voters to consider whether they want another four years like the past ones under President Barack Obama.
Ryan, in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday afternoon at Cleveland State University, was set to promise to Americans most in need that a Romney-Ryan administration would protect safety-net programs for them while overhauling benefits for wealthier Americans who might not necessarily need Social Security in their later years. Ryan also planned to describe the nation's mounting debt as a moral cause and urge voters to consider whether they want to pass that burden onto their children and grandchildren.
Ryan aides provided a preview of the themes and excerpts of the text to The Associated Press on Wednesday before Ryan left Colorado, where he and Romney – and musician Kid Rock – rallied 12,000 people at a scenic event at the iconic Red Rocks amphitheater outside of Denver late Tuesday.
"The strength of the safety net and the quality of our education system are among the many issues this year where the neediest of Americans have a direct stake," Ryan says in the prepared remarks. "But above all else is the pressing need for jobs. Right now, 23 million men and women are struggling to find work. Median family income has gone down in each of the last four years, dropping by more than $4,000."
In Cleveland, where block after block finds businesses boarded up and most voters have out-of-work neighbors, that message could help Ryan fire up solidly Republican voters. While Cuyahoga County, which houses Cleveland, is among the bluest counties in the country and Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2-to-1, the sheer size of the city guarantees there is a significant bloc of Republicans that Romney will need if he is to compete in the state that has become a linchpin of his strategy.
Ryan will also try to reach moderates, independents and even blue-collar Democrats who are frustrated with Obama's term.
"Whatever your political party, this nation cannot afford four more years like the last four years," Ryan said. "We need a real recovery. Mitt Romney is uniquely qualified and ready to deliver this recovery, because he understands how an economy works and what makes it grow. ... We can do this, but it's going to require bold departures from current policies."
Aides said Ryan planned to use a teleprompter for the speech, a rare prop for a candidate who can tick through budget policy details with little prodding. The formal address, titled "Restoring America's Promise of Upward Mobility," is one of the few speeches Ryan has offered since joining the GOP ticket. The congressman from Wisconsin has preferred instead to use his person-to-personal campaign skills to connect with voters in a way partner Romney seems to struggle with.
Ryan also was ready to introduce Romney's tenure as a stake president – the Mormon equivalent of a bishop among Catholics – to his audience. Romney has been reluctant to make his Mormon faith a centerpiece of his own pitch, but those close to Romney often speak of the hours he spent administering his fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – both internationally and in his hometown, Belmont, Mass. – and the generosity he offered his neighbors.
"As for Mitt Romney, he not only understands the importance of community; he's lived it," said Ryan, who planned to meet with civic leaders before his speech. "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."
If elected, Romney would be the nation's first Mormon president.