Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan gave a 15-minute speech Monday at Fort Lewis College in Durango focused mainly on the economy.
Ryan hit the stage at 2:40 p.m. shouting, “Go Skyhawks!” He gushed over the Colorado landscape, saying his family has visited the state almost every year of his life to ski and hike.
“I have never skied Purgatory, and I haven't climbed in the San Juans yet, so I need to come back,” he said to applause.
This is not an ordinary election, Ryan said; rather, it is about a moral obligation to reduce the national debt for our children and grandchildren.
“It means we can't afford four more years like the last four years,” he said.
Ryan was joined by Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio; U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez; J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio; and country music singer Mark Wills.
The rally came to Durango 12 days after first lady Michelle Obama made a campaign stop here and the night of the third and final debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
There were fewer than half the number of people who attended the first lady's speech. About 1,510 people attended Ryan's speech, according to his campaign, compared to about 3,700 people who attend Obama's speech. Ryan also spoke for about half of the time that Michelle Obama spoke.
The gym featured a “national debt clock” that was up to $16.2 trillion. Political signs advertised local Republican candidates, while others read, “We can't afford four more years.” The stage had a blue curtain for a backdrop with the Colorado and American flags.
The vice-presidential candidate spoke along familiar lines heard from the campaign trail, hitting upon sound bites such as, “Hope and change has become attack and blame.”
He called Obama's economic agenda a failure that has created a national debt that grows $2 million every minute.
Obama hasn't said what he plans to do about the economy if re-elected, Ryan said, a criticism Democrats have lobbed at Ryan's running mate, including by Obama during the first debate.
“Even though the president has not even articulated what he would do in a second term, we know where we are headed, and we know we can get off that path and get on the right track by electing Mitt Romney the next president,” he said.
Romney's five-point plan is “real easy,” Ryan said: “Let's use the energy we have in America,” he said to loud applause.
“We also believe we need to make more things in America, grow things in America and sell our products overseas,” he said.
Residents in Durango were given short notice of Ryan's visit. Fort Lewis College learned of the visit Saturday afternoon, and scrambled to make preparations during the weekend, said spokesman Mitch Davis. By comparison, the college learned of Obama's visit five days in advance, he said.
The vice-presidential candidate gave a speech earlier in the day in Pueblo. After Durango, he went to Grand Junction. Romney and Ryan are scheduled to appear at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Considered a swing state by many political observers, presidential candidates from both parties have been spending time and money in Colorado in hopes of capturing its nine electoral votes.
LeRoy Diem of Durango said he attended with few expectations. It was his second political rally – the first was in 1964 to hear former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona speak.
“I don't think I heard anything particularly new,” he said of Ryan's speech. “I just wanted to be in the presence of the stature of Ryan and Boehner. It was an historical occasion.”
Robin McGhehey of Bayfield said she agreed with Ryan's position on the national debt being a “moral issue.” If 23 million Americans are out of work, that creates stress among families and can possibly lead to divorce.
She called Obama a “weak decision-maker.”
Boehner accused Obama of attempting to mislead the American people about the deaths of four Americans in Libya.
“We now know this is a failure of leadership,” Boehner said. “America can do better. And Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the people who can lead our country.”
He said this was his first visit to Durango. He arrived Sunday to “get a real taste of it,” he said.
“If you haven't had breakfast at Oscar's, you ought to try it,” he said.