* Polls show Ryan having little influence on presidential
* Congressman campaigns through swing states to stump for
* Candidate shows off prowess with numbers and crossbows
By Samuel P. Jacobs
VANDALIA, Ohio, Sept 29 Trailing in the must-win
state of Ohio, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
asked his running mate Paul Ryan to meet him here this week.
After 24 days apart, Romney and Ryan reunited on an airport
tarmac on Tuesday amid grumbling from some Republicans that the
campaign has grown complacent, leaving Ryan, its strongest
advocate, off the national stage.
"Wow, that's quite a guy, Paul Ryan," Romney shouted to the
crowd. "Isn't that something?"
Romney's many conservative critics share that assessment.
Weeks ahead of the Nov. 6 general election, Romney is trying
to lash his fortunes to the energetic congressman, admired by
Republicans for his financial mastery and straight talk.
Those efforts could prove too little, too late. On the
trail, Ryan has become an enthusiastic champion for Romney,
deploying charts and populist charm. But the man at the bottom
of the ticket is not lifting the one at the top.
With early voting underway in 30 states, Romney is
struggling with dropping polls, the release of a secretly
recorded video in which he condemned nearly half of Americans as
dependents on government who view themselves as victims, and a
shifting foreign policy landscape that does not play to his
strengths as an economic Mr. Fix-It.
Against those odds, Ryan is traveling through Ohio and other
politically divided "swing" states that will largely decide the
election, lauding Romney's credentials and mocking his opponent,
Democratic President Barack Obama.
During the past week, Ryan's argument has taken a new shape,
as the campaign has used the U.S. House Budget Committee
chairman to rebut the widely held notion - even among
Republicans - that Romney has run a vague campaign, unburdened
Last Saturday Ryan delivered a PowerPoint presentation on
rising government deficits and U.S. debt obligations, the focus
of his stump speech.
During his classroom-style lectures, Ryan returns to the
same pose, placing his left hand on his hip, raising his
prominent brow, and biting his lower lip, as if to say of
Obama's handling of the economy, "Can you believe this guy?"
Ryan's description of budget horrors and debt nightmares is
intended to leave crowds believing that he is a teller of hard
truths, a break from Romney's reputation as a waffler.
"It's not what you want to hear. It's the truth," said Ken
Warner, 50, a software engineer from South Dayton, Ohio, after
hearing Ryan speak on Tuesday.
FIGHTING THE DWEEB FACTOR
Ryan, 42, is seen as a natural campaigner and savvy
populist, with an average-guy demeanor that Romney has never
During the Republican primary campaign, Romney memorably
serenaded a crowd at a retirement community with a rendition of
"America the Beautiful," which later became the soundtrack of a
derisive ad by the Obama campaign.
In Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday, Ryan appeared
after country crooner Lee Greenwood sang to the crowd.
"You know, I thought I wouldn't give a speech. I'm just
going to sing. You OK with that? Just kidding. I would lose
every vote here if I tried that," he said.
Ryan is quick on his feet. Romney often is not.
As a woman recovered from a fainting spell at a rally in
Fort Collins, Colorado, on Wednesday, Ryan seized the moment to
attack Obama's healthcare policies.
"Good thing she has a good healthcare system to go to, if
she needs it today," he said.
The campaign is eager to play up Ryan's hunting background,
fighting off any whiff that a man so enthusiastic about
PowerPoint slides is a dweeb.
On Tuesday Ryan made an arranged visit to a Bass Pro Shop in
a suburb of Cincinnati, purchasing hunting gear for his
As Ryan walked past camouflage jackets and toward a display
of crossbows, Ryan asked reporters, "Is this your first time in
There is little that Ryan's team can do to correct Romney's
performance on the campaign trail.
Vice presidential nominees have little impact on the
decisions made at headquarters, said Republican strategist Dave
Carney, who traveled in 1996 with Jack Kemp, the last Republican
vice presidential candidate to run against a Democratic
"You're really not there," Carney said. "You don't have a
chance to participate that much."
A Ryan campaign aide disputed that characterization, saying,
"There's constant communication between the folks on Paul Ryan's
plane, the folks on the governor's plane, and the folks in
Boston," where the Romney campaign is based.
"Paul Ryan talks to the governor most every day, senior
campaign officials every day. It is one campaign."
As to whether there's frustration in the Ryan camp about the
state of the Romney campaign, the aide said, "The name on the
top of the ticket is Governor Romney. That's just the way it
'RUB OFF ON MITT'
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week, Ryan
appears to have had little influence on the presidential race.
Among political independents, the sliver of voters who could
sway the election, 18 percent felt more favorable toward the
Republican ticket and 13 percent felt less so.
These numbers provide ammunition for Republicans who think
Romney isn't using Ryan well.
Speaking to a radio host last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker said, "They not only need to use him out on the trail
more effectively. They need to have more of him to rub off on
The campaign's turn to foreign policy hasn't benefited Ryan
either. He jokes at nearly each stop that because he lives in
Wisconsin, which borders Lake Superior, Canada is what comes to
mind when he thinks "overseas."
Aides say Ryan is having an impact. They point to splashy
headlines like the one that ran this week in the Fort Collins
Coloradoan, as evidence that he is generating positive coverage
where he campaigns.
But Ryan's soft polling numbers undermine the claim that he
was such a bold pick from the start, the kind that would alter
the course of the election.
Despite Ryan's prominence in Washington, where he has spent
the last two decades, there are plenty of places where he is not
a household name.
"I had never heard of him before," said Kay Mahaffey, a
retired nurse, at Ryan's recent stop in Lima, Ohio.
Regardless of the outcome on Election Day, the campaign
ensures that Ryan will no longer go quite so unrecognized
outside of Washington.
"He'll be one of the new big leaders in the party," said
Scott Pucket, 42, a Colorado State Patrol trooper, who heard
Ryan speak in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Wednesday. "Whatever