MANASSAS — Mitt Romney and his newly-announced running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, closed out their Saturday barnstorming of Virginia at a Manassas rally that attracted more than 8,000 people on a day that appeared to give the former Massachusetts governor a much-needed pep in his step.
The Romney campaign’s sudden announcement late Friday that he would unveil his running mate on Saturday and the roll-out of Mr. Ryan, a lightning-rod conservative loved by the right and loathed by the left for his proposals to overhaul the country’s entitlements quickly suspended talk — if temporarily — about Mr. Romney’s tax returns and a yawning gap between himself and President Obama in recent polls.
The crowd overwhelmed Harris Pavilion in Manassas, with eager onlookers still packing the streets hoping to get a glance at the 2012 Republican ticket.
“Hope and change has become attack and blame,” Mr. Ryan told the crowd in the same city where Mr. Obama held his final campaign event of 2008. “You know what? We’re not going to fall for it.”
The 42-year-old policy wonk, has already emerged as one of Mr. Obama’s most prominent Republican foils on Capitol Hill because of his budget proposals and plans to overhaul the country’s Medicare and Medicaid systems that have drawn significant criticism from the left.
For Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan appeared to be just what he needed Saturday. His selection now draws an ironclad ideological line between the Republican ticket and Mr. Obama and presents a palatable running mate for the GOP base.
The two kicked off their tour in Norfolk, with the decommissioned USS Wisconsin as a backdrop.
Mr. Romney, in introducing Mr. Ryan, the U.S. House Budget Committee chairman, called him a “shining example” of an outlier in cacophonous Washington, D.C.
“Paul Ryan was in Washington,” he said, “but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin.”
In his first public speech after being announced as Mr. Romney’s running mate, Mr. Ryan delivered a positive view of the future of an America rooted in free enterprise and government by the consent of the governed, while still proving he’ll be able to be an effective attack dog in the coming months.
“No one disputes President Obama inherited a difficult situation,” Mr. Ryan told the nearly 3,000 people who were gathered Saturday morning. “And, in his first two years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn’t make things better. In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair.”
Later, self-effacingly, he corrected himself.
“Every now and then I make a mistake,” Mr. Romney said. “But I didn’t make a mistake with this guy.”
Saturday was the first day of a four-state bus tour for the Romney campaign that also includes trips to North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
Mr. Obama’s campaign immediately blasted Mr. Romney’s pick.