SPRINGFIELD, Va. — The youngsters were running the show here on Friday, where 42-year-old Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan took the stage after being introduced by two 44-year-olds: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis.
Ryan said that if elected, Mitt Romney would treat Americans like adults.
“We have a very serious choice to make,” Ryan told the crowd. “And what Mitt Romney is offering is to make a decision together.”
Ryan has earned praise as a serious policy wonk willing to tackle the tough issues, and in his speech to the overflowing crowd at a northern Virginia high school, he spoke of issues — like entitlement reform — that tend to be flashpoints used to rile up voters.
Ryan said politicians ought to confront those issues head on, like adults, instead of avoiding them.
“The problem is, too many politicians in Washington, like President Obama, have been more worried and concerned about their next election than they have about the next generation,” Ryan said. “We will not do that.”
Instead, Ryan said, he and Romney would tackle the hard issues, even the unpopular ones.
Under the budget Ryan proposed last year as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Medicare would receive cuts, something that Democrats have hounded Republicans on since before Ryan was announced as Romney’s running mate.
“I heard the president talking about Medicare,” Ryan said. “We want this debate on Medicare. We want this debate, we need this debate and we’re gonna win this debate.”
He dismissed attacks from Democrats. Obama, he said, has “treated Medicare like a piggy bank.”
On the national debt, Ryan said, “we have got to stop spending money we don’t have.”
He also addressed Romney’s wealth, something Democrats have continually kept at the forefront, attacking Romney for his time at Bain Capital and for the low percentage of taxes he pays.
“The idea that sparks job creation is the notion that if you work hard in this country, and play by the rules, you can be successful,” Ryan said. “It’s ok to be successful. It’s a good thing to be successful … that’s something we should take pride in and not resent.”
In the past week, the campaign has gotten nastier, with both sides accusing the other of “low” attacks. Ryan addressed the heightened tension.
“The partisan atmosphere in Washington is the worst it’s ever been,” Ryan said. Romney, he said, would “reach across the aisle.”
“When we get elected, we will not duck the tough issues, we will lead. We will not blame other people; we will take responsibility,” Ryan said.
“Remember how President Obama used to say we aren’t the blue states or the red states, we’re the United States of America?” Ryan asked. “Remember when he said to put aside childish things and have an adult conversation? We’re still waiting for that adult conversation.”