LAS VEGAS – Paul Ryan got a raucous welcome here Tuesday night – though perhaps not the welcome he was expecting.
Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Venetian Hotel here to demonstrate as Ryan, the newly minted GOP vice presidential nominee, met inside with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, 2010 GOP Senate hopeful Sue Lowden and about three dozen other top donors.
“Ryan, go home! Ryan, go home!” the sea of demonstrators chanted as they marched in a circle around the fountain outside the hotel.
Most of the protesters said they were members of the American Federation of Government Employees and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, both of which are holding their annual conferences in Las Vegas this week.
“Paul Ryan’s out here and we’re here to picket the 1 percent and his budget cuts,” said Donna Pixley, a 46-year-old nurse from Florida. “He doesn’t represent the best interest of the middle class. They’re using government employees to fix the deficit. We didn’t create the deficit.”
Dan Fowler, a 64-year-old VA retiree who works as an organizer and trainer for union members in Tacoma, Wash., said that he “came to support all our union brothers and sisters because this guy is in town.”
“If he’s truly going to be an American, then he needs to truly support the middle class – not giving all those tax cuts to the rich,” he said of Ryan.
The scene of the protest was unmistakably Las Vegas: As the protesters marched, holding signs reading “Romney-Ryan: Pathway to Poverty!” and “Paul Ryan: Hustling for the 1%,” a few yards away, a striped-shirted gondolier ferried a couple underneath a bridge. On a billboard across the street from where the protesters were chanting hung a humungous billboard reading, “Hot Babes, Direct to You!”
The protesters demonstrated outside for more than an hour, but did not catch sight of Adleson or Ryan, nor were there any sightings of the two inside the Venetian. There were, however, an Elvis impersonator and a newly married couple – including a groom wearing a kilt.
Attendees exiting the meeting declined to talk to reporters on the way out; several were holding envelopes bearing the “Romney Victory” logo.
One elderly couple, who appeared to be accompanied by a body guard, waved away reporters as they made their way down a hall.
“It was a good event,” one younger man said on his way out.