TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Seizing the Republican National Convention spotlight, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan welcomed "the calling of my generation" to help lead the country in tough times Wednesday night and pledged that Mitt Romney will not duck the difficult decisions needed to repair the economy if he gains the White House this fall.
"After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney," the 42-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker declared in remarks prepared for delivery to the delegates. He spoke at a convention dogged by Tropical Storm Isaac, downgraded from a hurricane but still inflicting misery on millions along the nearby northern Gulf Coast.
"We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead," Ryan said.
In a secondary role if only for a moment, Romney accused Democratic President Barack Obama of backing "reckless defense cuts" amounting to $1 trillion. Addressing the American Legion in Indianapolis, he said, "There are plenty of places to cut in a federal budget that now totals over $3 trillion. But defense is not one of them."
In Tampa, the Romney team scripted an economy-and-veterans-themed program and kept a wary eye on Isaac. The storm remained a threat to levees in the New Orleans area almost exactly seven years after the calamitous Hurricane Katrina.
Inside the convention hall, delegates cheered a parade of party leaders past, present and - possibly - future.
The presidents Bush, George H.W., elected in 1988, and his son, George W., winner in 2000 and 2004, were featured in an evocative video. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party's 2008 nominee, spoke on his 76th birthday and said he wished he'd been there under different circumstances. And an array of ambitious younger elected officials preceded Ryan to the podium, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John Thune of South Dakota among them.
Ryan said in excerpts released in advance that he was accepting "the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us."
He added, "The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems.
"And I'm going to level with you: We don't have much time."
As he spoke a pair of electronic boards tallied the nation's growing national debt, approaching $16 trillion overall and more than $5 billion since the convention opened.
Ryan's vice presidential acceptance speech marked a prime-time national debut by a relatively young lawmaker lauded by fellow Republicans for his understanding of the complexities of the nation's budget.
Romney tapped Ryan this month as his running mate, a selection that cheered conservatives who have doubted the presidential candidate's own commitment to their cause.
If Ryan's selection was designed in part to appeal to conservatives, the convention was scripted to strengthen the ticket's appeals among women, Hispanics and others who prefer Obama over the Republicans, as well as veterans who supported McCain in 2008.
Romney delivers his own nationally televised acceptance speech tonight in the final act of his own convention. The political attention then shifts to the Democrats, who open their own convention on Tuesday to nominate Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for a second term.
For all of the attack ads and inflammatory rhetoric, the two campaigns tiptoed carefully around the storm ravaging the Gulf Coast, vying to demonstrate concern for the victims without looking like they were seeking political gain.
Obama told an audience in Virginia he had spoken on the phone with governors and mayors of the affected states and cities while aboard Air Force One earlier in the day. Romney's aides let it be known he might visit the region once the storm had passed.
Romney had already returned to Florida aboard his chartered jet when Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky began the convention's daily battering of Obama.
"America is suffering through an economic calamity of truly historic dimensions," he said in excerpts released in advance of his convention appearance.
"Some are calling it the slowest recovery in our nation's entire 236-year history. To call this a recovery is an insult to recoveries." He spoke a few hours after the government reported economic growth for the second quarter was 1.7 percent, sluggish but marginally better than earlier estimated.