Had six non-Romney fans not be banned from attending, they would have learned that Congressman Paul Ryan is just a family man with a lot of love for the State of Colorado. That's how the newly announced vice presidential candidate presented himself at the start of his speech at Lakewood High School today, at one of his first rallies since presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney revealed his much-anticipated running mate pick over the weekend. "It's great to be here in Colorado," Ryan said at the start of the rally. "I was actually planning on being here in Colorado this week...."
"Yeah!" someone shouted in the audience.
"...only on our family vacation," the Wisconsin congressman continued. "You see, my family is over in one of our great national forests here in Colorado while we speak. We come here every summer. I've been climbing fourteeners for over twenty years here in this great state."
The comment scored him loud applause.
"I have such great memories of jumping in our family station wagon...and enjoying the beautiful Rocky Mountains you have out here," he says. "This is one of the most beautiful states in the country."
Colorado is also a key swing state that will play an important role in the November election, which is why residents in the Denver metro area have been fortunate enough to have visits from Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and now Ryan in the span of less than three weeks.
The importance was not lost on Ryan, who told a crowd into the thousands, "I hope people here in Jeffco understand exactly what I'm saying.... People here in Jeffco are gonna have a huge opportunity, but you also have a huge responsibility, because in counties like this, in states like this, you will determine the future of our country."
Early in his speech, Ryan quickly transitioned from a talk of his love for Colorado to talk of the economy. "Without a doubt, President Obama inherited a difficult situation. Here's the problem: He made it worse. We have seen a failure of leadership...to create jobs, to get our spending, debt and deficit under control.... The Romney-Ryan plan for a stronger middle class is designed to get people back to work. It's designed to create jobs.... We're offering solutions."
One of those solutions, he said, is to "make sure we use our own energy, because we have our own energy" -- another line that earned him loud cheers. He later added, "President Obama has done all that he can to make it harder to use our energy."
Ryan has made a name for himself as the House budget committee chairman, known for his extreme budget-cutting measures -- a factor that Romney supporters hope will help him attract a strong conservative base even as it focuses the race on the economy and Obama's record.
Page down to read more of his speech and see more photos from the rally. "Grow things here, make things here, sell them overseas, create jobs," Ryan said of his plan for the economy and job creation. "We also have to stop spending money we just don't have."
Referencing a Colorado hiking trip with his family last summer, he said that he and his wife "stayed up late and we talked about our country, and there's nothing like the stars and the skies and the Colorado Rockies at night.... We look at our kids and we know that they are our future. But today, we look at our kids, and we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are mortgaging their future.... We have to leave our children a debt-free nation."
He added that the time has come to stop demonizing small businesses and start supporting them -- a common refrain of the Romney campaign.
As his speech continued, he broadened out to promote the Ryan-Romney ticket as the patriotic choice -- the one that will restore the values that the United States was founded on.
"We know that this country, which is the greatest country on the face of this earth...it's exceptional for a reason. It's the only country created on an idea. That idea is really clear.... The Declaration of Independence is really clear. Our rights, they come from nature and God, not from government," Ryan said. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
He continued, "Guess what, government doesn't regulate happiness. Government doesn't define your happiness. You define it for yourself."
He said that the difference between Obama and Romney is obvious -- and something news outlets have noted became even more evident with the pick of Ryan. "What we're offering is a very clear contrast, a very clear choice. What kind of future do you want to have? What kind of people do you want to be?"
"Free!" several in the crowd shouted back.
"We want that American ideal.... It's the opportunity society...where you can meet your potential. Nothing is stopping you from meeting your destiny."
While Ryan emphasized smaller government, Obama's Colorado team held a response event today. According to a press release, several Democratic leaders in the state came together to highlight how Romney and Ryan would hurt working families, women and seniors. The Dems also drew attention to the wind energy production tax credit, which Romney and Ryan oppose but Obama's team says would create jobs.
At the end of his speech, after touting Romney's business record and criticizing the Obama campaign for trying to distract and divide voters, Ryan said the time has come for voters to make the right choice.
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"We can turn our country around," he said. "I'm telling you, it's not to late to turn this thing around, get people back to work, to give our children a debt-free nation and to reignite the American dream."
Page down to see more photos from the rally. Page down to see more photos from the rally.
More from our Politics archive: "Video: Rachel Maddow on Colorado and personhood in presidential race"