The Romney campaign tested Ryan’s ability to carry its message of a revived private sector, giving him the weighty task of going head to head against Obama in Iowa — a state the Democrat won four years ago.
And the Republican team gave a glimpse of how it hopes to deploy the 42-year-old: as an energetic charmer at ease campaigning in his native Midwest. On Monday, he took the spotlight in front of thousands at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Far from playing the part of a conservative ideologue, as some had predicted, he avoided any mention of his signature effort to reform domestic entitlement programs. But he was heckled by protesters over his budget plans nonetheless, quickly transforming his first solo appearance as a national candidate into a chaotic spectacle.
With all four candidates on the two tickets hitting the trail simultaneously for the first time, new polls showed the necessity for both parties to quickly define Ryan. The numbers suggested that, despite his years on Capitol Hill, the congressman remains unknown to many Americans.
A new Washington Post-ABC News survey released Monday showed that positive views of Ryan increased by 15 percentage points after Romney named him to the ticket Saturday. But it also indicated that by Sunday, 30 percent of respondents still registered no opinion of the congressman.
A new USA Today-Gallup poll found that 39 percent of Americans think Ryan is an “excellent” or “pretty good” pick for a running mate — but 42 percent say he is a “fair” or “poor” choice.
Obama blamed the Republican Party, including Ryan, for inaction on an issue important to many Iowans: the renewal of the farm bill. Congress left for its August recess without approving new aid for farmers struggling amid a devastating drought.
“I am told that Governor Romney’s new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa the next few days,” the president told thousands at Bayliss Park, a square in downtown Council Bluffs. “So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is in our rural communities. We’ve got to put politics aside and do the right thing for rural America and for Iowa.”
Obama campaign officials picked up the theme. Asked by reporters whether Ryan, whose House Budget Committee does not have jurisdiction over the farm measure, is to blame for its troubles, adviser Jen Psaki responded: “Well, Paul Ryan happens to be in Congress, as you may have heard. And he has not, as far as we can tell, taken steps to move the farm bill forward.”