YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan tried to rally blue-collar votes for the Romney ticket in Ohio on Saturday, telling an audience at Youngstown State University that this election will determine whether the country continues down an unsustainable economic path.
The congressman from Janesville, Wis., wore a tie and a blue, button-down shirt with his sleeves rolled up as he told a crowd of about 1,400 that his hometown is much like theirs, a "blue-collar, factory town" where struggles of the auto industry hit home hard. He said a strong manufacturing industry is key to a strong country.
"We need to make more things in America and sell them overseas if we want to make sure we keep good jobs and prosperity going in this country," he said.
Referencing graphs displayed on televisions throughout the audience, he argued that President Barack Obama has failed to address trade problems with China and has led the country toward higher national debt, steeper taxes and insufficient job growth.
"We can't keep going down this path," he said. "We can't keep accepting this is the new normal."
Democrats say Obama stood up to China with tariffs on Chinese tires, and they countered that the Republicans' economic plans mean trouble.
"A PowerPoint can't hide the simple truth: All Romney and Ryan are offering is the same failed policies that led to the crisis and punished middle class families in the first place," Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement.
Romney supporter Karolyn Kopcial of suburban Austintown said she preferred to focus on what Ryan was saying, and she liked what she heard. The 52-year-old preschool teacher said Ryan made several promises important to her and her husband, a steelworker, including vows to repeal the health care overhaul and get the national debt under control.
Ryan, answering a question from an Akron college student, had urged voters to think about how the economic proposals would play out over the next few decades.
"Are we going to have the American Dream for your generation, or will it be squandered for you, before we even get a chance, by this generation?" he said.
Later Saturday, Ryan mingled with fans at Bowling Green State University in northwest Ohio before the Falcons took on his alma mater, Miami University.
Ryan was greeted by a friendly crowd at a tailgate party hosted by the College Republicans.
The only heckling he heard was "Go Falcons."
Ryan didn't make any formal remarks, and instead played a bean-bag toss game with his children and ate bratwurst and potato salad.
He met with students and the president of Bowling Green, leaving before the game started, and joked at one point about not seeing many Miami fans in the crowd.
The Republicans are hoping to energize Ohio's young voters this weekend as the campaign wraps up a week of crisscrossing the battleground state.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had an afternoon rally at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth in southern Ohio.
Associated Press Writer John Seewer in Bowling Green, Ohio, contributed to this report.