WESTLAKE, Ohio — With Mitt Romney lying low on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan pounded President Barack Obama’s economic record on Tuesday and tried to blunt a new round of expected attacks on Romney’s investment history.
The Wisconsin congressman drew comparisons between Obama and former President Jimmy Carter at a lunchtime rally in a gymnasium in this suburb of Cleveland. By a number of measures — unemployment, bankruptcies, delinquent mortgages — conditions are worse now, Ryan said, than they were when the last Democratic president lost a campaign for re-election in 1980.
“When it comes to jobs, President Obama makes the Jimmy Carter years look like good old days,” Ryan told about 1,000 supporters “If we fired Jimmy Carter then, why would we rehire Barack Obama now?”
Speaking two days after several top Democrats fumbled answers on national television to the question of whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago, Ryan reminded the audience that Ronald Reagan posed the same question in his 1980 campaign against Carter.
Democrats plan to run a Carter video at the convention on Tuesday — a few hours before the prime-time television address of first lady Michelle Obama.
Romney, taking a break from public campaigning, arrived Tuesday in Vermont, where he plans to practice for upcoming debates at the secluded mountain estate of Kerry Healey, who was lieutenant governor of Massachusetts when Romney was governor.
That left Ryan to soak up attention for the Republican ticket at campaign stops in Ohio and, later Tuesday, in Iowa.
Facing the potential of new attacks at the Democratic convention on Romney’s record as founder and former chief executive of Bain Capital, Ryan alluded to the criticism and dismissed it as an Obama diversion from issues facing the country.
“He can’t run on his record, he’s run out of ideas, and that’s why his campaign is now sadly based upon the politics of envy and division,” Ryan told the crowd in Westlake.
Obama has accused Romney of making millions of dollars in Bain corporate takeover deals that drove jobs overseas and led to thousands of layoffs. The president’s campaign ads have also questioned Romney’s placement of some of his personal fortune in overseas tax havens, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Ryan called attention to Romney deals at Bain that led to the creation of jobs, such as the firm’s investment in the Staples office supply chain.
“He helped create tens of thousands of jobs,” Ryan said, using a figure that Romney stopped citing months ago after fact checkers questioned its accuracy.
Ryan also slammed Obama for the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the nation’s credit rating last year, which the rating agency blamed on both the administration and Congress. When hecklers interrupted him, Ryan said, “People can shout, people can use words, but people cannot escape the facts.”
Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner released a statement saying that Ryan had voted for Bush administration spending that drove up the national deficit and now, with Romney, wanted to bring back “budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy on the middle class’ dime and letting Wall Street write its own rules.”
“While Romney and Ryan may want to revise the past,” Kanner said, “they can’t make up their own facts.”