Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has taken on a celebratory tone, as Romney and his new vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, basked in the support of cheering crowds in North Carolina.
Thousands of people lined a highway in High Point on Sunday to greet Romney and Ryan, who stopped to shake hands and exchange high-fives with some of them. Another 1,300 packed into a stifling hot furniture warehouse for a rally with the Republican candidates.
"We can turn this around," said Ryan, 42, who was speaking of the economy and budget but might as well have been referring to the campaign of Romney, who has trailed Democratic President Barack Obama in recent polls.
"We can do this. We can get this country back on track," Ryan told the cheering crowd. "We can get our people back to work. We can get our debt paid off so we can give our children a better standard of life."
Romney added that he and Ryan have "a long road ahead of us, but this is day two to reclaim America's progress."
The November 6 election is more than two months away, but Sunday's rally had the intensity of a typical late-October campaign event.
It showed how Romney's selection of the Wisconsin congressman as his running mate has injected new energy into a campaign that had struggled to move beyond Democrats' efforts to cast Romney as a wealthy former private equity executive who cannot relate to middle-class Americans.
Hours earlier in Virginia, where Romney introduced him as the No. 2 on the Republican ticket on Saturday, Ryan, the chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, told reporters that being thrust into the presidential campaign was "very exciting. We're going to win this campaign. We've got the wind behind us."
Romney, 65, seemed relieved to have a sidekick to end what he has called the "two against one" dynamic of the race, with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on one side and Romney on the other.
"It's a far more compelling dynamic than just being out there on my own," Romney said late Saturday.
But it also was evident that Romney's selection of Ryan - who is known for his sweeping budget plan to reduce government spending and debt by trimming taxes and revamping Medicare and other social programs - is going to raise a series of hurdles for his campaign as it sprints toward Election Day.
In choosing Ryan, Romney is attaching himself to Ryan's controversial budget plan, which has been blasted by Democrats who say it would dismantle popular social programs that help the elderly and the poor.
Ryan's selection also suggested that Romney is tackling a prickly task during an intense, nasty and likely close race for the White House. He is asking Americans to consider tough questions about the future of Medicare, the government-backed health insurance program for the elderly, and a range of other government programs.
‘Threat to Medicare’
Democrats' efforts to cast Ryan - and, by extension, Romney - as a threat to Medicare could be key in the election.
Ryan's plan calls for an end to the guaranteed benefit in Medicare and replaces it with a system that would give vouchers to recipients to pay for health insurance.
The risk in such a plan is that if healthcare costs rise faster than the value of the vouchers, seniors would have to pay the difference.
Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod said on "Meet the Press" that the Medicare changes supported by Ryan would send the healthcare programme, which polls indicate most Americans do not want changed, into a "death spiral."
Romney rejected the notion that Ryan's plan would kill Medicare.
Ryan "has a plan ... to make sure we can save Medicare," Romney said. "And guess what, he's one of two sponsors - and guess what, the other is a leading Democrat," a reference to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
During an interview that Romney and Ryan gave to CBS's Bob Schieffer on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Ryan responded to criticism of his Medicare plan by noting that it would apply only to those younger than 55.
"My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida," Ryan said. "Our point is, we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger. And we think these reforms are good reforms."
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|Timothy V. Gatto|