Crowd respects Ryan’s focus on debt

Local Republicans receive Ryan with open arms Small cadre of protesters voice objections

Whalen Gymnasium, halved by a partition, a wall adorned with blue banners cautioning “We can’t afford another four years” and “We need a real recovery,” pulsated with energized Republican supporters Monday afternoon.

Talk of debt, deficits and taxes held sway. Those in attendance were unified in their conviction that President Barack Obama has mismanaged the economy since taking office.

CJ Alderton, 53, thought the United States would benefit from more “business friendly” leadership, and was especially fond of Paul Ryan’s reputation as a policy wonk.

“(Ryan) carries 40 pounds of notes around all the time. He’s continually studying the budget and is the first person to confront the issue of entitlements. I appreciate someone courageous enough to tell the truth. For me, it’s about math. Adding $1 trillion of debt a year is the wrong direction,” Alderton said.

However, he was “ambivalent” about Colorado coming under the swing-state microscope and disliked how politics can engender division between neighbors.

“I’m ready for the acrimony to be over,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re one country and need to coalesce around one vision.”

Deb Andersen was another who respected Mitt Romney’s private-sector acumen.

“Who better to run our government than a businessman?” she asked rhetorically.

Many attendees criticized the Obama administration for profligate spending – a real-time national debt clock towered ominously over the crowd, tracking each new dollar of debt – and its response to the September attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“I’m livid. I speak for a lot of people. It’s a scandal. They’re covering up the truth,” said Robin McGhehey, 43. “(The attack) was a heinous thing. We haven’t lost an ambassador since 1979. As Americans, we take care of our own.”

The euphoria was palpable, but a few dissenters were not impressed.

About two dozen sign-wielding Democratic sympathizers stood outside ready to “welcome” the delegation, local Obama fan Dick Dahl said.

Dahl had broken off from the main group after the rally and stood isolated among a sea of Romney-Ryan supporters exiting the gym.

“I was a Republican for 25 years. I voted for Nixon and Reagan twice. Not since,” he said.

Dahl acknowledged America’s rising debt under Obama, but maintained government spending was appropriate with the economy “in the tank.”

Meanwhile, Tom Williamson was “confused” by what he had seen inside. He described the crowd as a “strange amalgamation of monied people and social conservatives concerned about God, gays and guns.”

“I don’t understand. Some people in this audience don’t have health insurance. They will vote for the guy who wants to give out vouchers instead of preserving Medicare and expanding coverage,” Williamson said.

lgroskopf@durangoherald.com

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