Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan urged his House GOP colleagues Thursday to remain optimistic despite days of tumult for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and said that voters are being offered two distinct choices in November.
“This is going to be an up and down race,” Ryan said during a brief appearance Thursday at the last scheduled weekly meeting of House Republicans before Election Day, according to multiple people in the room.
“Three polls came out that have us within one point. They are going to [try to] distract us,” Ryan said, adding later that “They [Democrats] will try to make this about little things. We have taken all the tough votes and led.”
Aides would not say which polls Ryan was referring to, but polls of likely voters released Wednesday by the Associated Press and last week by The Washington Post and ABC News show the Romney-Ryan ticket trailing President Obama by one point. The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll of registered voters also gives Obama a one-point edge.
Ryan met with his colleagues at the Capitol Hill Club, a privately-owned facility on Capitol Hill where Republicans usually meet together once a month to discuss political issues. The meeting began shortly before 9 a.m. and lasted less than a half hour, and from outside the club house, lawmakers could be heard cheering at the beginning and end of Ryan’s remarks.
“Here’s our commitment: We are going to make this about the big things,” Ryan told his colleagues, according to people in the room. “We need to go on offense, and we need to give our constituents the choice of two futures.”
After the meeting, several of Ryan’s colleagues echoed his optimism.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) described the meeting as a “pep talk” and added that Ryan said “he’s excited when members of Congress go out and campaign with him, because he’s been going to all the battleground states, and he likes when they’re there.”
“They have a plan laid out, and they’re following the plan and they’re going to do what they need to do and not get distracted or discouraged by what happens every day,” Labrador added.
“There’s two choices for the country — that’s the message,” said Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.). “He told us what’s going on on the campaign trail, there’s a lot of energy. He said the energy level is off the charts.”
But despite Ryan’s closed-door description of the race as a choice between two plans, Republican House leaders meeting with reporters after the meeting instead outlined the election as a referendum on Obama’s leadership. In opening remarks by six different House Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), not one mentioned Romney. Instead, they stressed again and again that Obama has failed to lead, cut the debt or improve the economy.
Asked twice if he agrees with Romney’s contention at a high-dollar fundraiser in May that 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes cannot be persuaded to vote for Romney, Boehner merely insisted the election will be about job creation.
“The focus is on jobs. The president’s economic policies have failed, and the American people know it,” he said. “You’re going to have both campaigns on both sides say things that get off the message. The message is: Let’s stay focused on jobs, because that’s what the American people want us to stay focused on.”
He also dismissed pundits who have suggested the race is over, noting that the Gallup daily tracking poll shows Romney within a point of Obama, and insisted that Romney’s ground game now exceeds that of the successful George W. Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004.
“Think about this as a card game. The president has played his cards — his economic policies have failed,” Boehner said in response to a question from a reporter. “His foreign policy has failed. His energy policy has failed. His cards are played. Mitt Romney has a plan to get our economy back on track.”
Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
Follow Rosalind S. Helderman on Twitter: @postroz