Hecklers Interrupt Ryan At Iowa State Fair Stop

Aug 14, 2012
Originally published on August 14, 2012 5:09 am
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Congressman Paul Ryan has made his first solo campaign trip as part of the Romney-Ryan ticket. Ryan went to the Iowa State Fair yesterday, a place where the food is fried and often on a stick, where candidates are a common sight and where politicians are face-to-face with voters. Ryan drew a big crowd, though it wasn't always friendly one.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was there.

(APPLAUSE)

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Fairgoers cheered as Paul Ryan stepped out of his SUV on the grounds of the Iowa State Fair. The newly minted running mate was greeted by Governor Terry Branstad and a group of Republican officeholders. The entourage strolled down the Grand Concourse, as cameras and reporters jockeyed for a view. Ryan, a well-known fitness nut, did not provide the shot many had hoped for. He skipped the fried-foods. He also avoided reporter's questions with a line he used a few times as he walked.

PAUL RYAN: We'll play "Stump the Running Mate" later. I'm just going to enjoy this fair right now.

GONYEA: He walked and talked to voters, many of whom didn't know who he was. But Ryan's visit had been publicized in advance, and when he got to the tiny stage - known as the soapbox - that was the site of his speech, a huge crowd had gathered. Ryan is from neighboring Wisconsin, and he broke the ice with football.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GONYEA: Right away, Ryan launched a critique of President Obama, showing his willingness to play the role of attack dog, a longtime tradition for vice-presidential candidates.

Now, the president was also in Iowa yesterday, and would drop by the fair hours after Ryan had left. But back to Ryan's speech, just as he was attacking the president, a heckler in the crowd shouted: Are you going to cut Medicare? Other Hecklers began yelling more questions. Ryan stopped for just a moment. Then...

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GONYEA: The heckling continued through much of the 12-minute speech. It couldn't have been a surprise to the campaign, given that on this same stage, during the Iowa State Fair one year ago, Mitt Romney himself was heckled, prompting him to say the now oft-quoted line: Corporations are people, my friend.

Yesterday, Ryan supporters countered the hecklers with their own chant. Ryan, meanwhile, plowed ahead, eventually finishing his attack on the president.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GONYEA: Ryan did not talk about Medicare in his speech. He did ask voters - in a state that was so important to President Obama's success four years ago - to turn to the Republicans this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GONYEA: Ultimately, it was a noisy and somewhat chaotic welcome to Congressman Paul Ryan on his first day campaigning on his own, on behalf of the new Romney-Ryan ticket.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.