JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — A raucous crowd cheered native son Paul Ryan on Monday as he prepared to accept the Republican Party's vice presidential nomination. He pledged to take the values of his family's longtime hometown to the White House.
Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin whose district includes his Janesville hometown, arrived in the gymnasium of the high school where he cheered classmates more than two decades ago to signs welcoming "Paul Ryan: The Pride of Janesville" and two minutes of solid applause. Several times he recognized faces and waved.
"Everywhere I look, I see friends, I see community leaders, I see family members," he said in this town of about 63,000.
The send-off was a local-boy-done-good tribute and a preview of what aides said would be his message to the thousands of delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., for the convention — and the millions of voters who will look at him for the first time when he accepts the nomination and addresses the convention Wednesday night.
"We have a big choice to make. We're not just picking the next president for a few years. We are picking the pathway for America for a generation," Ryan said. "And what Mitt Romney and I pledge is to make sure that you get to choose: What kind of country do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?"
While the audience was friendly, Romney's first few weeks in the spotlight as running mate to GOP presidential candidate Romney brought new scrutiny to House Republican budget proposals he authored, and specifically to his idea to transform Medicare for future generations. Looking to soften Democrats' criticisms that the GOP would end the health care program for seniors, Ryan cited local civic groups such as food banks who help neighbors in need.
"What we do in our communities is we look out for one another. That's what governing can't replace or displace," he said. "You know, they call it civil society. I call it Janesville, Wis."
The rally took on the tone of an extended family reunion at times, with Ryan's brother introducing him. The prideful audience held signs proclaiming "Wisconsin Believes" and "Romney-Ryan."
Former state Sen. Ted Kanavas recalled bumping into Ryan around town and asked the crowd how many others had run into the congressman at the grocery or video store. The room erupted with applause.
"Paul is an accessible person who you can walk up to and talk to. That's the Paul we know and that's the Paul we're sharing with the country," Kanavas said, ignoring the fact that easy access to Ryan would disappear if Romney is elected.
"So from everyone in Janesville: Paul, we support you, we are with you and we are wishing you a great convention. Keep doing us proud," he continued to cheers.
Aides said Monday that Ryan would head to Florida on Tuesday, a day later than expected.
GOP officials trimmed the convention by a day, to three days, because of the threat from Tropical Storm Isaac, which had veered away from Tampa and was headed out over the Gulf of Mexico on Monday. It was expected to become a hurricane and possibly hit the Gulf region late Tuesday.
Ryan mentioned Isaac once during the rally, saying his hopes and prayers are with "those still standing in the path of the storm."