Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of about 500 people at a commercial hanger near the Pittsburgh International Airport Saturday, saying the country couldn't afford "four more years" of the Barack Obama administration's energy policies. The Congressman repeatedly mentioned the importance of coal mining during the event in an effort to support his point.
"Pennsylvania is going to send Mitt Romney to the White House, isn't it?" Ryan said, referring to his running mate as he launched into a stump speech that focused on criticizing President Barack Obama's energy and tax policies.
But Ryan also made questionable claims about energy trends. For example, he said that Obama administration policies are "making us buy more oil from the Middle East." But U.S. oil production has risen by almost 20 percent since Obama took office, and total oil imports have declined by about the same amount. Natural gas production has increased, too, especially in Pennsylvania as the Marcellus Shale boom gains speed.
Ryan made some comments that seemed designed to appeal to western Pennsylvania sensibilities.
"After this election, my daughter's 10 years old. She gets to shoot her first deer this year," Ryan said, to applause from the crowd.
One thing that seemed clear at the event was that Romney has won over the Republican base.
"Romney wasn't my first choice, but I'm really happy with him now, the more I've gotten to know him," said Georgia Kruhm, of Oakdale, who was excited to be at the event. Others at the event expressed similar thoughts.
Local Democrats questioned the seriousness of Ryan's visit.
"We have Paul Ryan doing a kind of fly-by today," said Alleghany County executive Rich Fitzgerald, who made a brief appearance near the Ryan event.
"For six years, Mitt Romney ran as a severe conservative" but now positions himself as a moderate, Fitzgerald said.
Romney trailed Obama by just 4 percentage points among likely Pennsylvania voters in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted Oct. 12-14. The same pollster showed Obama with a 12-point lead in late September.
But there have been no signs of a new Romney advertising push in Pennsylvania, and the Romney campaign didn't immediately respond to questions about whether its candidates plan to make more visits to Pennsylvania, or plan to run ads here.
Obama campaign spokesman Matt Mittenthal said he didn't know of any plans for Obama or Vice President Joe Biden to visit Pennsylvania during the last two weeks of the campaign.
But Ryan's appearance was likely about more than just the presidential race in Pennsylvania. The event drew cars from Ohio as well and it could have an impact on the heavily contested race for the U.S. House is being waged by Republican lawyer Keith Rothfus and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Critz.
Ryan visited Pennsylvania once before as the vice presidential candidate, on Aug. 21.
Obama hasn't campaigned in Pennsylvania since July, and Biden, like Romney, last campaigned in the state in September.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.