Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, gestures during his address during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday night.
TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican Party is getting a look at its future and delegates attending the National Republican Convention are seeing a bright one, a Southwest Georgia delegate to the event says.
As the convention was gearing up for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to make the presidential nomination acceptance speech that would define his political career and a surprise guest speaker on Thursday night, state Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, recapped events of Wednesday, which culminated with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., taking on the role of the ticket’s No. 2 nominee.
“I think he certainly energized the crowd,” Rynders said of the 42-year-old Ryan. “When we got on the bus last night, everybody talked about the future. I think lot of people knew of him, but not a lot about him. Everybody felt he hit a home run.”
The vice presidential position on the ticket usually requires an ability to make assaults on the opposing party’s nominee, something for which Vice President Joe Biden has become well known. Rynders said Republicans are anticipating a verbal contest between Ryan and Biden at their pre-election debate.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, in a surprise brunch visit Wednesday with the Georgia delegates, told the group — with 76 members, the fifth largest at the convention — that when the matchup happens, he knew “one thing to be a fact ... House Republicans will be glued to their TV sets the night Ryan debates Biden. You’re not going to win a debate with Paul Ryan when it comes to the numbers.”
When President Obama ran in 2008, he was afforded “rock star” status, particularly with younger voters, Rynders said. “I think Ryan hopes to cut into that some,” he said. “Clearly, the younger crowd likes him a lot. The conservatives like him a lot.”
That appeal to younger Americans — Ryan quipped that his iPod has music from AC/DC to Zeppelin while Romney’s music that he’s heard sometimes gets played on elevators — is something Republicans are excited about. There are signs that the party is reaching beyond an older white male core.
Asked whether he has noticed any changes in the makeup of the delegates, Rynders, who is attending his third convention, said, “I would say it’s probably a hair younger. I would certainly say it’s more diverse. I’ve seen more Asians, Hispanics and minorities than I have in the past.”
The speakers have shown diversity, including Wednesday night former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
Both Rice and Martinez, Rynders said, hit on the theme of success and had work in their remarks.
Rice pointed out that it was remarkable that an African-American woman who couldn’t eat at a lunch counter when she was a child in the South rose to be secretary of state.
Martinez saw the same in her rise from a New Mexico border town to the governor’s office.
“It was a consistent theme of when did we become an America where you have to apologize for succeeding and doing hard work?” Rynders said. “It’s the same kind of message. This is still the land of opportunity. We need to make sure our young people know that.”
One comment that Ryan made that hit home with many — including younger attendees — was his observation that Americans in their 20s with college degrees shouldn’t have to be lying on their beds in the homes they were raised in staring at Obama posters and wondering when they’ll get a job and be able to move out, Rynders said. “That one,” Rynders said, “brought the house down.”
And while there were some empty seats for earlier speeches Wednesday, Ryan had a packed house.
Security had to be tightened because the floor was at capacity, Rynders said.
He also said the delegates were happy to see that the Romney-Ryan ticket is willing to tackle Obama on the Medicare issue.
That’s been seen as a potential problem for Ryan, who attacked Obama for taking $700 million in Medicare funds to help pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Critics of Ryan have noted that his own budget plans included a similar reduction in Medicare spending.
But Ryan made it clear, Rynders said, that there is “a difference between trying to protect the program and raiding it. That drew good applause.”
About the surprise speaker set for Thursday night: Rynders, in his telephone interview with The Herald midafternoon Thursday, said he had a “good source” who said it was Clint Eastwood. Turns out he was correct.