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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Democratic Stronghold, Ryan Puts Focus on Poverty

Representative Paul D. Ryan delivered a speech focused on poverty on Thursday in Cleveland.Eric Thayer for The New York Times Representative Paul D. Ryan delivered a speech focused on poverty on Thursday in Cleveland.

Extending the Republican ticket's lean toward the middle, Representative Paul D. Ryan expressed compassion for Americans in poverty and laid out a vision for fixing the broken engine of upward mobility.

Poverty has been all but absent from the speeches of Mr. Ryan and Mitt Romney, except when they accuse President Obama of presiding over years of increased reliance on food stamps and the highest poverty rate in a generation.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Ryan struck a notably empathetic tone toward the poor, even if he did n ot offer new antipoverty proposals.

“Americans are a compassionate people, and there's a consensus in this country about our fundamental obligations to society's most vulnerable,” Mr. Ryan said.

He spoke in Cleveland, in Cuyahoga County, where Mr. Obama won his largest margin of any Ohio county in 2008. The Republican ticket's furious effort to wrest the state from Mr. Obama has brought Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney not only into traditional Republican strongholds, but to Democratic bastions as well, in hope of prying away voters disappointed by the president.

Mr. Ryan cited grim numbers - 46 million people living below the poverty line, a high school dropout rate of 50 percent in major cities.

“In this war on poverty, poverty is winning,” he said. “So what is the alternative approach that Mitt Romney and I are offering?”

He made the traditional conservative case that government antipoverty programs create a â €œculture of dependency,” implying that they be significantly scaled back. He argued that the best route out of poverty lies in an unfettered free-enterprise economy that robustly creates jobs.

“We need a real recovery,” Mr. Ryan said. “Mitt Romney is uniquely qualified and ready to deliver this recovery â€" because he understands how an economy works and what makes it grow.”

Mr. Ryan agreed that government has a role to provide a “safety net.” But he called for reforming Medicaid and the food stamp program to remove federal mandates and let states manage the antipoverty programs.

In a response, the Obama campaign cited an analysis of the House budget Mr. Ryan wrote, by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which said it would “impose extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation's poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”

“The American people understand that Mitt Romney would take us back, and no change in rhetoric in the campaign's final weeks can change that,” Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in a statement.