Doubts about Ryan's ability to win over key swing states
FRESH-FACED running mate at his side, a reinvigorated Mitt Romney pumped his fist and joined a packed rally in a rare chant of "USA!" yesterday. But he may have been preaching to the choir.
The Republican presidential challenger and Paul Ryan -- his prospective vice-president -- rolled into North Carolina, a conservative state they plan to take back from Barack Obama, who won it in 2008.
At the rally in Iredell County -- a Republican stronghold, where 62pc voted for John McCain over Mr Obama -- they received a rapturous welcome. Thousands more waited outside, in 32-degree sunshine.
Yet, it remains to be seen whether the recruitment of this budget-cutting radical might attract undecided and moderate voters in swing states whose ballots will decide November's poll.
"Here's the deal," Mr Ryan told his adoring crowd. "The economy is not working. President Obama four years ago came with so much promise -- so much hope and change."
With Mr Romney watching on as proud master, his 42-year-old apprentice told voters they now had "a choice between two futures" -- the "welfare state" under Mr Obama, or "restoring America's greatness".
The addition of Mr Ryan to the stage has instantly sharpened the critique that Mr Romney had previously not shown enough passion.
"Ryan puts some energy into it," said Jim Hal, a 72-year-old pensioner. "Romney's content is always good, but usually you can sleep through his speeches a little bit. Ryan is vibrant -- you can't deliver a dud after him."
Hailing "day two of our comeback tour", Mr Romney said: "We're here to recapture something people thought was lost."
He was talking about America, but he might as well have been describing his own campaign, which trails in most opinion polls after repeatedly being put on the defensive by Mr Obama's attacks.
As promised, Mr Ryan, a seven-term congressman first elected at 28, has electrified the Republican "base", which never loved Mr Romney, and he should push potential stay-at-home Republicans to turn out.
However, disenchanted former Obama voters were nowhere to be found. "I think Ryan will be a boost to the Democrats," said Sue, a 62-year-old protesting against Mr Ryan's plans outside the rally.
After losing her local government job to budget cuts, she became part of the state's 9.4pc unemployed, a rate even outstripping the dire national numbers.
Yet she will not desert Mr Obama. "Romney and Ryan scare me," she said.
Indeed, centrist conservatives fear that while Mr Ryan may boost Mr Romney's prospects in Wisconsin and nearby Ohio, his proposal to privatise Medicare, the healthcare scheme for the elderly, could lose him Florida.
The state, a home to millions of sun-seeking pensioners, is a must-win for Mr Romney.
Still, Stuart Stevens, Mr Romney's top strategist, claimed to be confident that Mr Ryan could bring in new voters without scaring the independents and moderates.
"Sure he can," he said. "And the two national tracking polls say if the election were held tomorrow, we'd win." (© Daily Telegraph, London)