TAMPA, Fla. – They faced off last week on the debate stage in Danville, Ky., and on Friday, they very nearly crossed paths again.
GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden both spent their Friday rallying supporters in Florida, the biggest electoral college prize among the country’s swing states.As Ryan arrived in Tampa Friday afternoon, his campaign jet rolled across the tarmac and past Air Force Two, which had touched down less than an hour earlier at the same airport..
Ryan held an entrepreneurship roundtable at the University of South Florida and toured the college’s Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, a center where students develop research projects that they often later go on to patent and sell on the market. He was set to hold a fundraiser later Friday in West Palm Beach, followed by a joint rally with running mate Mitt Romney in Daytona Beach. Biden, meanwhile, was holding events in Sun City Center and Fort Pierce.
During his short tour of the technology center, Ryan met four student entrepreneurs who described for him the projects they were working on, according to a pool reporter. One entrepreneur gave him a sample bottle of her product, a type of liquid band-aid.
“It’s kind of like New Skin,” Ryan said as he examined the bottle.
“But nicer,” the woman replied.
“But nicer,” Ryan said.
While touring the lab, Ryan also joked, “They make fun of me for drinking a lot of water” – a reference to his debate performance last week, and the Saturday Night Live sketch that lampooned him for taking frequent sips from his glass during his face-off against Biden. Earlier Friday, during a radio interview with host Charlie Sykes, Ryan was asked about the sketch; he said he had seen it and had thought it was “hilarious.”
Ryan then headed to the nearby University of South Florida Alumni Center for the entrepreneurship roundtable, during which he spoke for about 45 minutes with students and faculty members.
Asked by one man about governmental research funding, Ryan responded: “We have to cut spending. ... That means you must prioritize. I’ve always believed, and Mitt and I have talked about this as well, is basic research is something that’s inherently governmental.”
As he and Romney regularly do on the campaign trail, he advocated for less regulation and told attendees that “there is no substitute for growth.” At one point, he noted that he was “not here trying to be political” before going on to hail Romney for his ability to “turn sluggish organizations into effective ones.”
Shortly before wrapping up the event, he told one attendee that he expects there will be an “economic renaissance very soon if we can get on top of our problems in a real structural way.”
Three hours after he arrived, Ryan took off for his next campaign stop in West Palm Beach, narrowly missing Biden, who departed Tampa about a half an hour before Ryan did.