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Sunday, November 4, 2012

At Minnesota Rally, Ryan Emphasizes Bipartisanship

A member of the crowd held up a poster of Representative Paul D. Ryan at a campaign rally on Sunday in Minneapolis.Josh Haner/The New York Times A member of the crowd held up a poster of Representative Paul D. Ryan at a campaign rally on Sunday in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS - Expanding the campaign map into a state next to his own, Representative Paul D. Ryan held his first rally in Minnesota in the dwindling hours of the race on Sunday, dividing remarks between criticism of President Obama for failing to lead and promising that a Romney White House would reach across the partisan chasm as the president had not.

The boisterous cheers and clatter of thunder sticks from a crowd that his campaign numbered at 6,500, one of the largest Mr. Ryan has dra wn on his own, may have given him reason to wish he had visited Democratic-leaning Minnesota more often.

It is a state where the Romney-Ryan campaign has only recently decided to invest its resources, which is either a sign that it believes the electoral map has widened, or evidence that it feels its chances in the usual battlegrounds are diminishing.

Mr. Ryan, chosen as Mitt Romney‘s running mate for his ability to excite the conservative base, made one of his strongest appeals yet to bipartisanship. “Minnesota and Wisconsin, Wisconsinites and Minnesotans, we are bipartisan states,” he said. “We know you have to work with people across the aisle because they're with us, they're part of us, they're in our own families.”

Mr. Ryan delighted in playing up his ties to Minnesota, telling supporters he woke up Sunday morning in Green Bay, Wis., and was happy to find an ice-fishing show on television. “I've got a 15-year- old Jiffy power auger,” he told supporters, thousands of whom were in an airplane hangar and others outside - assuming that all Minnesotans would understand the reference to an ice-drilling tool.

In one breath Mr. Ryan blistered Mr. Obama for failing to meet Republican leaders from the Senate or the House since July.

In the next, he described Mr. Romney's record as a Massachusetts governor of working with a heavily Democratic legislature.

“Did he demean them?” he said of Mr. Romney. “Did he demagogue them? No. He met with them every single Monday. He reached across the aisle. He did not compromise principle; he found common ground and he did what he said he was going to do: he balanced the budget each and every year without raising taxes.”

“That's leadership,” he added. “That's the kind of leader we need. That's what he does.”

Mr. Ryan spoke as if the bipartisan gridlock in Washington was the fault only of the president and Dem ocrats. Yet, in the same speech in which he called the Obama administration “the most partisan White House I have ever seen,” he also praised the leadership of Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the divisive founder of the Tea Party caucus in the House.

Mr. Ryan has told aides that if he becomes vice president, he plans to meet regularly with senators and House members from both parties in an effort to gain bipartisan support for sweeping tax and entitlement overhauls he and Mr. Romney propose. But Democrats on the House Budget Committee, which Mr. Ryan leads, say he has no track record of compromising with them, despite being well liked.

Mr. Ryan repeated the litany of grim economic markers that have always been the Republicans' most forceful argument against a second Obama term. He cited an unemployment rate higher today than on the day Mr. Obama took office, rising national debt and the highest poverty rate in a generation.

He personalized the jobs statistics, mentioning a high school friend laid off from a $25-an-hour job at a General Motors plant in Mr. Ryan's native Janesville, Wis., who now works for $9 an hour without benefits at a QuikTrip convenience store.

“We have family and friends that we know of who are in their 40s or their 50s or their 60s, prime working years, they're out of a job or they're out of a good job,” he said.

He also found fanciful ways to invoke bipartisanship. Noticing a sign reading “Vikings for Romney,” Mr. Ryan chuckled. “Look at this,” he said. “Even Viking fans and Packer fans can lay down together. This country is coming together. We can bridge our differences.”

Follow Trip Gabriel on Twitter at @tripgabriel.