GOP visits ECU
Ryan says it’s time for ‘turn-around’
As if “purple-gold” chants and AC/DC entry music weren’t enough to jack up the crowd at East Carolina University Sept. 3, Rep. Paul Ryan rolled out football and ‘cue.
“I was just talking to Pat McCrory in the back room there,” said Ryan, referring to the Republican candidate for governor. “He tells me you all are going to beat Steve Spurrier next week. Go Pirates.”
The crowd of 2,000 roared at the reference to ECU’s upcoming football game against Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks.
“Thank you Greenville,” said Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee. “I also hear you have some really good barbecue.” More cheers followed.
Ryan was campaigning in North Carolina, considered an important swing state, as Democrats prepared to begin their national convention in Charlotte.
After the local flavor, Ryan turned to Republican talking points during a 22-minute speech: taxes and spending are too high, government regulations are too burdensome, jobs are too scarce.
And, he said Republicans are the ones to correct those issues.
“After four years of getting the run-around, it’s time for an American turn-around, and the man for that is Mitt Romney,” Ryan said.
Cites Romney’s record
He credited Romney, the Republican nominee and former Massachusetts governor, with getting the 2002 Winter Olympics on track and saving failing businesses during his career as a venture capitalist.
Ryan, serving his seventh term representing Wisconsin in Congress, told the crowd many Americans are not better off than they were in 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. Instead of defending his record, Ryan said, the president has resorted to criticizing his opponents.
“Hope and change has become attack and blame,” Ryan said.
He also noted Greenville and Pitt County’s strength in health care and said Romney will work to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
“No matter what generation you come from, this is the most important election in your lifetime,” Ryan said. “It really is.”
Students excited by Ryan
Before the speech, ECU students said they were looking forward to hearing what Ryan had to say.
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me,” said construction management graduate student Kelly Barnes of Rocky Mount. “Not many politicians come to eastern North Carolina.”
His wife, senior elementary education major Jessika Barnes, was more pointed. “I’m a supporter of anyone who isn’t Obama,” she said. “He doesn’t stand for the things I believe in.” She also said she disagrees with Democrats’ assertions that Republicans are not friendly to women.
Student Katie Dodge also criticized the president. “I think Obama promised a lot of things and hasn’t made do on them,” said the freshman communications major from Delaware. She’ll be voting in her first presidential election.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I really like the opportunity to use my voice.”
Following Ryan’s speech, ECU trustee Kieran Shanahan praised the vice presidential candidate and the fact he came to ECU.
“His authenticity is what really strikes you about Paul Ryan,” said Shanahan, who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention last week. “I’m sure it resonated with the students.
“For Ryan and his campaign to come not just to North Carolina but to East Carolina says a lot about how far the university has come,” he said.
Other speakers included Kinston mayor and ECU graduate B.J. Murphy, insurance commissioner candidate Mike Causey and McCrory.
“Now, more than ever, we need new leadership in Raleigh and Washington, D.C.,” McCrory said.
Campus Democrats offer ‘pre-sponse’
As the doors opened for the Ryan rally, ECU Democrats, a student group, welcomed a congressman and a former congressman to campus for what organizers termed a Democratic “pre-sponse” to Ryan’s remarks.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st, and Bob Etheridge, former 4th District representative, met briefly with the media, students and supporters at the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center.
Their remarks focused on the impact of proposed Romney/Ryan policies on higher education and student financial aid tools such as the federal Pell Grant Program, which provides need-based grants, primarily to undergraduates.
Ryan wrote the budget that proposes cuts to Pell Grants and student loans, Butterfield said, key tools for students who need help paying for college.
“Unfortunately for students, the Romney/Ryan team does not seem to understand the challenges facing our students,” Butterfield said. “Invest in Pell Grants or give tax breaks to millionaires? It is clear President Obama and Romney/Ryan have very different answers.”
Butterfield said $25 million in Pell Grant assistance goes to students at ECU. He said 23 percent of ECU’s approximately 21,000 undergraduates received Pell assistance — roughly three in 10 students.
“The Ryan budget would slash Pell Grants,” Butterfield said. “That would be particularly hard on college students.”
In addition to the crowd at the SRC to hear Ryan, another 700 packed Hendrix Theater to watch a live stream of the event, and another 500 or so waited outside, according to officials.
The Romney/Ryan campaign will pay ECU more than $12,900 for the cost of using the Student Recreation Center, as well as an estimated $6,700 in security supplemental security costs. Officers from Greenville Police, Pitt County Sheriff’s Office and Pitt Community College assisted ECU Police with security.