OLDSMAR -- In his first public speech in Tampa Bay, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan flexed his budgetary muscle to skewer President Obama’s economic policies and derided last week’s stimulus effort by the Federal Reserve as “a new bailout.”
“We don’t need sugar-high economics. We don’t need synthetic money creation,” he told a couple thousand people gathered at the waterfront pavilion at R.E. Olds Park on Saturday. “We need economic growth. We want wealth creation.”
Mitt Romney’s running mate focused his 20-minute speech largely on the economy, saying Obama “made things worse” after inheriting a historic recession. He aimed some of his toughest remarks at the Federal Reserve’s new plan to spend $40 billion a month to buy mortgage bonds to try to keep interest rates low.
“One of the most insidious things a government can do to its people is to debase its currency,” he said.
As protests continued throughout the Middle East, Ryan spent only a few minutes on foreign policy, paying tribute to the four Americans killed at the U.S. consulate in Libya last week. Unlike Romney, who directly criticized Obama’s reaction to the attacks, Ryan spoke in broad terms about maintaining a strong national defense.
“If we project weakness, they come,” said Ryan, a 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman in his seventh term. “If we are strong, our adversaries will not test us and our allies will respect us.”
Ryan wore a black polo and khakis as he spoke to the audience, many clad in patriotic garb and shaking pompoms. He came on stage to AC/DC’s Rock 'n’ Roll Train after an introduction by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
He was joined by his wife, Janna, and mom, Betty Douglas, who lives in Lauderdale-by-the Sea. He spoke while surrounded by a little white picket fence and shrubs.
The afternoon heat took a toll on the crowd, as a couple dozen people sought attention from EMTs for heat-related illnesses, and at least two people were taken to the hospital for further treatment.
The rally is the latest in a series of high-profile campaign stops in Tampa Bay and across the state, underscoring the importance of Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
Obama is scheduled to visit Tampa on Thursday, after holding a rally a week ago in Seminole. First lady Michelle Obama will speak in Gainesville and Tallahassee on Monday. “Explainer in chief” Bill Clinton and Ann Romney stopped in Florida last week.
Many speakers on Saturday emphasized Florida’s must-win status for Republicans, but a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released last week showed Obama leading Romney in the state by five points.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who spoke before Ryan, took it a step further, calling Pinellas County the “anchor” of the all-important Interstate 4 corridor of swing voters.
“Florida’s a big deal,” said George Silverman, 69, a Largo retiree who was enjoying some shade before the rally began. “You just hope it goes to the right.”
Ryan is a rock star for the Republican faithful and has helped Romney shore up the conservative base. That includes many who were skeptical of Romney’s healthcare law he passed as governor of Massachusetts.