ABOARD THE RYAN PLANE – Facing a mounting effort by Democrats to tie him to the Todd Akin controversy, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Wednesday that he is proud of his record on abortion rights and maintained that Mitt Romney is the one who will set the GOP ticket’s policy.
“Well, you know, look. I’m proud of my record,” Ryan said to reporters aboard his plane en route to Raleigh, N.C., when asked about differences between him and Romney regarding abortion.
Romney supports abortion exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is endangered; Ryan does not.
“Mitt Romney’s going to be the president,” Ryan said. “The president sets the policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I’m comfortable with it because it’s a good step in the right direction. I’ll leave it at that.”
The Romney campaign has stated that Romney’s policy will be the one followed by a Romney administration. But as the controversy surrounding Akin, the Missouri congressman who is running for the Senate, and his comments about “legitimate rape” has ramped up, Democrats have sought to put the political spotlight on Ryan’s staunchly conservative views on social issues.
Asked about his co-sponsorship of legislation that tightened restrictions on abortion— and initially used the term “forcible rape” — Ryan told reporters, “That bill passed I think by 251 votes. It was bipartisan. . . .I’m proud of my pro-life record.”
Ryan also acknowledged that he had phoned Akin to encourage him to drop his Senate bid.
“It’s as you would imagine,” Ryan said of the phone call. “And I’ll keep it between us. But I agree with Roy (Blunt) and Jack Danforth and all the rest of the people from the Missouri delegation, current and former, that he should’ve dropped out of the race. But he’s not. He’s going to run his campaign, we’re going to run ours.”
The presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee made his remarks to reporters in an unannounced visit to the back of his campaign plane. He was asked about his plans for his speech at next week’s GOP convention in Tampa.
“Good, good,” Ryan said of the preparations. “I spend a lot of time working on these things. You know me, I’m into making sure I can give good speeches, and I want to make sure it’s well done. Everybody said that this would drain me, the road. You know, it’s not. It’s great. It actually gives you energy. I’m keeping a good routine, which is great. This is fantastic — the encouragement from the crowds is just amazing. It’s an infectious enthusiasm.”
But he declined to give a preview of his remarks.
“You’ll see when I give it,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday in a visit to a hardware store in Roanoke, Ryan took aim at President Obama for the “you didn’t build that” remark the president had made in the city last month.
He also seized on a local bakery owner’s decision last week not to host Vice President Biden and his entourage.
In his sixth event in the Old Dominion since being named Romney’s running mate, Ryan was introduced by Chris McMurray, owner of the Crumb and Get It Cookie Co., about an hour away in Radford, Va.
“How ironic that I would have the privilege of standing before you today and telling you the truth about small business in America — and of all places, in the beautiful city of Roanoke!” McMurray told the cheering crowd of more than 1,000 people as he introduced Ryan.
Speaking in the morning sun and with banners reading “We Did Build It!” in the background, McMurray told the crowd about how he declined last week when Secret Service agents approached him about hosting a visit by Biden.
“Nothing personal, but I just happen to disagree with the president and vice president on a few things,” he told the enthusiastic, mostly older crowd.
When Ryan took the stage, he joked of McMurray: “He just gave my speech!”
Ryan told the crowd that Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark “tells us why our economy isn’t growing like it should.”
And he peppered his stump speech with references to the importance of Virginia, acknowledging that “I’ve been coming to Virginia a lot these days.”
“Deliver Virginia, you save the American idea,” he told the crowd to cheers.
Ryan also stepped up his focus on Biden, more than he has in the 12 days since he was tapped for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket.
“He just said the middle class is coming back. . . . He said last summer was going to be the summer of recovery. It’s a summer later, and it’s still worse,” Ryan said. “This is President Obama’s imaginary recovery. It’s not here. We have a mountain of uncertainty that is plaguing small businesses.”
The Romney campaign has made Obama’s Roanoke speech a central part of its argument that the president is hostile to small business. In what was perhaps an allusion to how much stock Republicans have placed in the remark, Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who spoke ahead of Ryan at Wednesday’s rally, told the crowd, “Welcome to what I am dubbing the epicenter of the earthquake of 2012.”
“When it comes to Washington, an earthquake that started in Virginia is going to more than crack the Washington Monument,” he said. “We’re going to shake up every institution there.”
And as Democrats have argued that Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare will weaken the GOP ticket’s support among seniors, the Wisconsin congressman had some enthusiastic supporters in the Wednesday morning crowd.
“I’m all for him. I think he’s great, really and truly. And he seems to be for people in my age bracket,” said Dot Campbell, an 86-year-old retiree from Roanoke.
She called Ryan “a super smart guy” and said: “I don’t know how he learned so much in 42 years!”
“He’s going to save your Medicare!” added Martha Crute, 79, also of Roanoke.
Asked whether she had any concerns about Ryan’s plan to voucherize the health-care plan for the elderly and disabled, Crute responded that she was “more concerned about what Obamacare would do to it.”
Both women said that they supported McMurray’s decision to decline Biden’s invitation and were thrilled at the boost his business has received during the past week.
“I’m going to go and buy a cake!” Crute said with a laugh.