MARIETTA - Bursts of thunderous applause and sporadic cheers broke out in Marietta College's packed Fenton Court Saturday morning as the excited crowd heard from Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, marking Marietta's first visit this campaign season by a candidate from either presidential ticket.
"I feel very excited. It is time for a change and I want the right change," said Carole Walters, 54, of Marietta, before Ryan took the stage.
Approximately 1,500 supporters turned out to take in the event, including St. Mary Elementary School fifth-graders Carli Robertson and Ainsley Betz.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks about job creation during his visit to Marietta College in Marietta Saturday morning.
Though still a couple of presidential elections shy of voting age, the girls know who would be getting their vote. They have been debating about the presidential election in class, where the majority of students favor Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said 10-year-old Betz.
"We really want to see Paul Ryan and we hope that Romney/Ryan wins," added 11-year-old Robertson.
It was not just the younger generation that was enthused. Harold Yglesias, 74, of Parkersburg, could hardly contain his excitement as he waited for the speaking engagement to start.
"I feel terrific today. If it was any better, I couldn't stand it," said Yglesias, adding that he thinks Romney and Ryan will help put young people back to work.
For Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, Ryan's visit brought back memories of another significant candidate's visit.
"Thirty-two years ago I stood here as a high school senior when Ronald Reagan spoke at Marietta College right before his historic victory and I think this is going to be an equally historic victory," said Thompson.
Ohio Senate candidate Shane Thompson, U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel also took the stage on Saturday at MC to ask for Ohio voters' support on Election Day.
"We know that coal and oil and gas are assets, not liabilities," said Mandel as signs reading "Ohio Counts on Coal" sprang up across the gymnasium.
But the real show stopper was Ryan, whose appearance came just 80 hours before the polls close in Ohio, a critical swing state that will help decide his fate.
"Marietta, are you going to help us win this thing?" Ryan asked the crowd, receiving an enthusiastic roar of support in return.
The Republican grassroots movement in Washington County has been very positive, said Rob Reid, local press secretary for the Romney campaign.
"We are surpassing records for doors knocked in any state for any campaign. I feel very good about the enthusiasm on the ground," said Reid.
The ground was not the only place with visible enthusiasm. Circling the skies about Fenton Court, a plane carried a banner that read, "SAVE OUR COUNTRY VOTE ROMNEY-RYAN."
The unique gesture was a last minute idea by Reno resident Mark Mondo.
"He woke me up at eight o'clock and said 'let's build a banner,'" joked Mondo's wife, Judy.
The Mondos constructed the banner Saturday morning, and Mark Mondo took off from an airstrip at their home to display the banner as people came and went, she added.
Ryan's message touched on several issues, including Romney's ability to create jobs
"Wouldn't it be nice to have an actual job creator in the White House to deal with this job crisis," he asked supporters.
Ryan also emphasized the Republican party's support of Ohio's energy industries.
"Let's use that energy in this state and in this country and put people back to work," he said.
Four years after being elected to the White House, President Barack Obama has failed to keep his promises of a reduced deficit, job creation and bipartisanship, said Ryan.
"Look, it sounded good. And when he got elected, people naturally expected him to deliver those results, but it didn't happen. And look what we got. Washington is more divided than it ever has been before," Ryan said to a loud round of booing.
"In 2008 he appealed to our highest aspirations. Now he's appealing to our lowest fears," he added.
Ryan also touched on the topic of the Affordable Care Act after an audience member yelled, "Repeal everything!"
"Let me just add to what this gentleman said. We have to repeal 'Obamacare,'" agreed Ryan.
Ryan also talked about the long-term significance of the campaign.
"We're not just picking a president for the next four years. We're literally picking the trajectory of this country... for at least a generation," said Ryan.
According to a press release from the Obama campaign, Washington County Democratic chairwoman Molly Varner planned to hold a press conference in Belpre immediately following the Ryan engagement to highlight "how Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are being dishonest with Ohioans and failing to provide proposals to move the country forward."
Varner could not be reached for comment Saturday afternoon.
A representative from the Obama campaign in Ohio did not return a call for comment.
Ryan concluded his talk by urging voters to spend the final few days before the election talking to friends, knocking on doors, and doing whatever it took to win the election.
"Let's wake up on Wednesday morning, Nov. 7, and let's turn on the TV and know that we did everything we could, that we talked to everybody we knew who voted for Obama four years ago because of the hope and change and now know it didn't happen," he encouraged supporters.
Ryan's visit could not be better timed, said Leslie Haas, chairwoman of the Washington County Republican Party.
"It is good to have him this late in the campaign. The volunteers are tired. The voters are tired. And someone like Paul Ryan really re-energizes people to get out there and do what they can," said Haas.
Marietta College juniors George Bloomfield and Mattie Stowell certainly felt that energy.
"It was definitely inspiring. I haven't been so excited about the election until now," said Stowell.
Added Bloomfield, "They made me feel like I should go out and make a difference, talk to people and encourage voters."