MILWAUKEE (AP) - Vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan rallied the Republican faithful in his home state Saturday night, telling donors at a Milwaukee fundraiser that President Barack Obama has driven the nation into a fiscal crisis.
Ryan's campaign allowed reporters to listen only to remarks Ryan gave to donors in a ballroom at the posh Pfister Hotel in the heart of the city's downtown. The Janesville congressman kept his remarks short, speaking for just shy of 15 minutes. He didn't delve into policy specifics, keeping his jabs at Obama broad and sounding grand themes like pursuing the American dream.
"He believes this idea of just borrowing and spending ... and Washington knows best," Ryan told the crowd. "It's not too late to turn this around. It's not too late to solve this problem."
Ryan's stop comes as his running mate Mitt Romney continues to fight for ground in Wisconsin with only a month to go before the election. A Marquette University Law School poll released this week showed Obama with an 11-point lead. Obama stopped in the state Thursday, appearing on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in front of a crowd of 30,000 supporters.
Republican movers and shakers were undaunted Saturday, opening up their wallets for a chance to hob-knob with Ryan. The price of admission ranged from $250 for anyone under age 35 to $100,000 for couples who wished to be designated "Founding Partners."
Brandon Buck, a spokesman for Ryan's side of the campaign, said about 200 people attended. Jon Hammes, finance chairman for the Romney campaign in Wisconsin, told the crowd before Ryan's remarks that the event had netted $2.8 million. The crowd erupted in cheers.
Ryan took the stage to enthusiastic applause. He began his address by lauding Republican Gov. Scott Walker's victory in a recall election this past June. Democrats forced the governor and a number of GOP legislators in recalls as payback for Walker's contentious law that stripped most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining powers.
Ryan then turned his praise to Romney for the presidential nominee's performance in Thursday's debate against Obama. He said Romney reminded him of former President Ronald Reagan.
"Didn't Mitt Romney knock it out of the park the other night?" Ryan said. "I was so excited to see it because finally people are seeing who he is."
He ripped Obama for failing to bring people together and for pushing the country into a "debt crisis." He implored people not to give up on the American dream as the economy sputters.
"Unfortunately, because of the way things are right now, because of our policies, because of our economy, too many people are thinking ... they can't reach that. Bull. Bunk," Ryan said. "That American dream is right around the corner. ... We will turn this around."
Asked for comment, Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski pointed to remarks Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made earlier in the day. Barrett appeared at a news conference with a person dressed up as Big Bird, a play on Romney's remarks during the debate that he wants to end subsides for public television. Obama chided Romney during his Madison stop for attacking "Sesame Street," the long-running public television program for children that features the Big Bird character.
Barrett said Ryan's fundraiser was in the same vein as one for Romney in May when Romney was secretly recorded saying 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and see themselves as victims.
"The president will continue to fight for middle class families and believes in building this economy from the bottom up, from the middle out," Barrett said in written remarks prepared ahead of the news conference. "And then you have Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney who think the responsible thing to do is cut subsidies to PBS, the home to Big Bird."