Paul Ryan in Virginia

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 17 2012 4:06 PM

Paul Ryan in Virginia

SPRINGFIELD, Va. -- My trip through New England had taken me far, far away from the initial launch path of Romney-Ryan. Today, finally, I got to see the vice presidential nominee hit the hustings in a swing state, in this suburb of Washington, 30 short minutes from downtown.

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The basics:

Crowd size: Huge in the way that gets reporters to notice the hugeness. I arrived for the 3:15 rally at 1:35, and had no chance of getting into West Springfield High School's parking lot. (My sincere thanks to the homeowners who did not call to get my car towed as it occupied some space on their street.) The gymnasium packed in at least 2000 people; anyone arriving after 2:15 or so was sent to an overflow room.

Music: Boston's "More Than a Feeling," two Bob Seger songs ("Still the Same" and "Hollywood Nights"), whoever sings "That's America," and, of course, Kid Rock's "Born Free." No Rage Against the Machine.

Opening Acts: Local congressional candidate Chris Perkins (running against increasingly ensconsed incumbent Dem Gerry Connolly), Rep. Frank Wolf, attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, and former Rep. Artur Davis -- more about his reception later. Wolf was given the unkind task of revving up the crowd before a 15-minute music break, and he approached his role by serving word salad like "As Ronald Reagan said, those words in the Declaration were a covenant with China." (I can explain. Wolf cited Reagan's maxim that the words of the founders were meant for all the world, and Wolf said the Obama administration's human rights record was pathetic, especially vis a vis China.)

Believable-Sounding Lies: In good supply. Ryan got his speech down to a taut 20 minutes, interrupted once by a heckler who asked "Why did you lie about requesting stimulus money?" The accusation has merit; the heckler was shouted down. Ryan himself claimed, three times, that Barack Obama believed small owners "didn't build that," and argued that "there's only one person who treated Medicare like a piggy bank, and that's President Obama." In reality, both his budget and Obama's cut the cost of Medicare by the same amount.

Accidental Evocation of Romneycare: Ryan reminded the crowd that Romney "reached across the aisle" as governor of Massachusetts, to achieve great things. What kind of great things? Why, balancing the budget. What did you think he was referring to?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.