MILWAUKEE (AP) - Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan urged attendees Sunday at a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson to complete what he called "Wisconsin's journey" by electing Thompson as senator and Mitt Romney as president.
Ryan headlined the fundraiser at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee that attracted about 300 people and GOP luminaries including Gov. Scott Walker, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Thompson's campaign did not have an immediate estimate on how much money was raised.
Ryan took time out of campaigning for Romney to hold the fundraiser for Thompson, who is in a tight battle with Democrat Tammy Baldwin for Wisconsin's open Senate seat. Ryan also planned to hold a public rally Monday morning in nearby Waukesha.
With just 23 days left before the election, both President Barack Obama and Romney are paying a lot of attention to Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes. Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in La Crosse on Friday, a week after Obama attracted 30,000 people on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Ryan, a Janesville native, was in Wisconsin last week to raise money and spend time with his family.
As the electoral map shrinks for Romney and Obama, Wisconsin is one of about nine states that both sides still see as being in play. Recent polls show Obama's lead is in the single digits.
Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984, but Ryan said recent gains by the party in 2010 and victories in other races, including Walker's recall in June, have it poised to deliver for Romney and Thompson in just over three weeks.
"Everything we can possibly do has to be done. And when we do that, we will look back at this moment as the day Wisconsin completed its journey," Ryan said. "We know how to do it. We've already done it. We did it in 2010. We did it with last summer's recalls, we did with the Supreme Court race. We did it with the summer recall and we're going to do it again."
Ryan, as well as Walker and Priebus, heaped praise on Thompson, who barely survived a four-way GOP primary in August to take on Baldwin. She was uncontested. The winner will fill an open seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.
Walker said it will take money, message and manpower to get Romney and Thompson elected this year. He said Republicans have made more than 2 million voter contacts since July to make that happen.
"His place in history was already so well written," Ryan said of Thompson in his 11-minute speech. "This is a man who engineered some of the most successful ideas in public policy in a generation."
Thompson faces a tough challenge from Baldwin, who was first elected to Congress in 1998 - the same year as Ryan. That's also the last year Thompson won a statewide office.
Their race has been one of the hottest in the country, with millions of dollars pouring in from outside groups. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says nearly $19 million has been spent by outside groups so far, ranking it third nationally behind the presidential race and the Virginia Senate contest.
Ryan said money coming into the campaign against Thompson is being used to "distract, distort and tear down the name of this very good man. But we know Tommy Thompson. He's our family, he's our leader, and he's going to be our next United States senator."
Baldwin and Thompson are required to report on Monday how much money they've raised and spent through the end of September.
Thompson said last week that he raised $2 million in the six weeks since the mid-August primary. Thompson also said the event Sunday was the only fundraiser Ryan was doing for any candidate other than Romney.
About 75 protesters gathered in the wind and rain outside the museum carried signs opposing Ryan's plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Thompson has supported that plan, a position that's become a major focus of his Senate race.
Baldwin campaign spokesman John Kraus released a statement in reaction to the fundraiser saying, "Tommy Thompson can't take the money and run from the fact that for the last year he has supported Paul Ryan's plan to end the guarantee of Medicare and replace it with a voucher that will stick Wisconsin seniors with higher out of pockets costs for the health care they earned and paid for."
Deborah Wiersum, 62, of Kenosha, carried a sign that read, "Don't Mess With Medicare." Wiersum said Ryan was raising money for Thompson because he was worried Baldwin was going to win.
"He needs a little star power to back him, and a little youth power," Wiersum said. Thompson is 70; Ryan is 42.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore called Ryan and Thompson a "dangerous duo" who would devastate the middle class with the voucher program.
Moore serves on the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, and said she has for years listened to Ryan describe his budget plans and looked at his charts and graphs. But she's not bought into his pitch.
"Let me tell you something," she said. "The numbers don't add up. That dog don't hunt."