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Is GOP Excitement Waning For V.P. Nominee Ryan?


If you live in Ohio, you probably feel like this national presidential campaign is focused exclusively on one state - yours. Certainly may feel that way this week. President Obama has released a new TV ad in Ohio and he'll be campaigning in the key battleground state later in the week.

Today, Republican Mitt Romney joins up with his running mate, Paul Ryan, on a bus tour aimed at Ohio's working class voters. This bus trip comes as Republican insiders are asking some questions about Ryan's role in the campaign. Here's NPR's Debbie Elliott.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: At least one Ohio voter appears ready for the Romney-Ryan campaign to step it up a notch.

DAN ERMELER: We need backbone in the Republican Party. We have not have backbone in the Republican Party for many a years.

ELLIOTT: Dan Ermeler stepped up to the mic during a town hall in Lima, Ohio yesterday, where Paul Ryan kicked off the bus tour. Ryan acknowledged Ermeler's frustration

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: I couldn't agree with your more.


ELLIOTT: Many conservatives expected Ryan to be the backbone when Mitt Romney selected him as a running mate, certainly on social issues and fiscal policy. On the stump, he does spell out the numbers, even supplementing with charts and graphs at the Lima gathering. He told Ermeler he was talking about cutting the deficit long before it was cool.

RYAN: When Mitt Romney asked me to join the ticket, he said this to me. He said, number one, you share my values. Number two, you have shown you have the gumption and guts to reform this in Congress and to get this done. That's the kind of experience I need, 'cause we have to save America in 2013. Join me and let's do that. You know what I said to him? I said let's get this done. And so...


ELLIOTT: But as Election Day draws closer and polls show Obama with a slight edge in hard-fought Ohio, some Republicans question whether the ticket is getting it done. One of them is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Ryan's home state. In a Milwaukee radio interview Friday, he talked about his high expectations for what Ryan would bring to the campaign - expectations that have not been met.

GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER REPUBLICAN, WISCONSIN: I could sense the enthusiasm, the excitement, the adrenaline that Mitt Romney had - not just Paul Ryan had - about this ticket and about being bold and exciting. I haven't seen that as much lately and I think they need to get back there if they're going to win the election. People want bold leadership.

ELLIOTT: There's always this kind of Monday Morning quarterbacking when campaigns are so close, says political scientist John Green, director of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron. He says Ryan has been a good team player.

JOHN GREEN: One of the most important things for a vice presidential nominee is to not cause any trouble for the ticket, as a whole; to not create a distraction or to overshadow the nominee.

ELLIOTT: Voters in Lima seemed to understand that role. Terrence Edgett says Congressman Ryan is hitting just the right tone.

TERRENCE EDGETT: A lot more so than the running mate of John McCain, you know? That was his big downfall.

ELLIOTT: Ryan has not sparked the attention that Sarah Palin did four years ago. And that makes him asset in the eyes of JoLynn Delgado, a church secretary who campaigns, door to door, for the Romney-Ryan campaign.

JOLYNN DELGADO: They don't want him to look better than the main dude. So yeah, they're going to tamp him down a little bit.


DELGADO: Yeah, don't want him to overshadow anybody. So, you know, hopefully his time will come in eight years.

ELLIOTT: Ryan has not shied away from one signature issue: changing Medicare, a position that drew boos from his AARP audience last week.

But for Robin Kantner of New Knoxville, Ohio, the most important thing he brings to the GOP ticket is his background.

ROBIN KANTNER: He's the one that's not super rich and he lives in a nice, normal American town. And he talks about issues that are important for the ordinary person.

ELLIOTT: Kantner says that makes for a nice balance to Mitt Romney. The two are expected to campaign together in Ohio today.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Cincinnati.


GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.