The man from Wisconsin rocks Manassas

Paul Ryan was greeted like a rock star in Manassas on Saturday ensuring that voting in November will no longer be a chore for most conservatives

Romney and Ryan in Manassas
Kara Watt
On 15 August 2012 13:36

With school holidays coming to an end, the people of Manassas, Virginia had probably expected a sudden halt in the number of outsiders visiting the town. However, whereas the usual Civil War tourists may have packed up for the summer, Manassas welcomed a different group of visitors, preparing for battle nonetheless.  

On Saturday, an influx of Republican Party faithful, from as far as New York, Maryland and surrounding Virginia counties descended on the historic downtown to catch a glimpse of Mitt Romney and his newly-minted running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan. 

Having only announced Ryan’s spot on the ticket hours before in Norfolk, the Romney campaign greeted 7,000 enthusiastic supporters at a small pavilion downtown. A further 4,000 supporters received tickets but failed to gain admittance. Thousands more who logged on in the early hours were left disappointed. 

Even the Romney campaign will likely admit the floods of people were not here to see the top of the ticket. The event had the aura of a rock concert, but one where people were looking to see the energetic opening act more than the solid headliner. As a renowned Metallica fan, seldom seen on Capitol Hill without his iPod, Ryan would probably appreciate the comparison. 

Most commonly known as the site of two crucial Civil War battles, Manassas is certainly no stranger to political rallies. Then Senator Barack Obama wrapped up his successful and historic 2008 campaign at the city’s fair grounds.  

When Obama spoke on the eve of Election Day, he told the Manassas crowd, “You can keep your dignity, keep your decency, and still win.” People hearing the same line from Obama these days may struggle not to crack a wry smile at the very least. 

The Obama of today, despite the elevated stature of incumbency, would not be able to repeat these words on the eve of Election Day 2012. Just this week, Obama mouthpiece Priorities USA Action ran a television ad that accused Mitt Romney of causing a woman to die of cancer. So much for keeping your dignity and decency. 

With the introduction of Ryan, Romney not only marked a sharp contrast to the vitriol spouted by Democrats in recent days, he has shifted it to one of ideas. Romney’s main problem over the past few months – or career for that matter – has been about how to convey a vision. He may well have found his solution. 

While many Americans had begun to accept that the country’s best days were behind it, they suddenly have a reason to believe in a comeback. However, this won’t be for the faint hearted.  

The Democratic attacks are really just the start.  Ryan gets this. The crowd roared in response to Ryan’s line, “Hope and change has become attack and blame.” Just because of the intellectual capacity of the candidates and the fact that a campaign suddenly becomes about “ideas” doesn’t mean it’ll suddenly become elevated from the gutter politics we’ve already experienced. 

If anything, it will just descend further. For attendees on Saturday, however, the coming attacks mattered little. Romney didn’t let them down. Voting in November for most conservatives will no longer be a chore, but an eagerly anticipated event. 

Whereas the Obama campaign continues to slide to new depths, the thousands that packed the city streets of Manassas came for honesty, action and confirmation that America’s best days have yet to come. The symbol of that was there, before them all, on that stage. 

Arguably Ryan’s strength is articulating and quantifying the frustrations long held by many Republicans and independent voters. He received deafening applause for declaring that the country is one of “equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.” 

For the thousands of supporters who withstood the Northern Virginia sun on Saturday, they’ll be hoping that Ryan’s place on the ticket creates another lopsided outcome.  

Kara Watt is a Wisconsin native.  She currently works and resides in Alexandria, Virginia

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