Critics and supporters greet Paul Ryan in his first Tampa Bay appearance as VP nominee

St. Petersburg resident Carl Herman disagrees with the notion promulgated by Romney and Ryan this week that President Obama has cut over $700 billion out of Medicare (as does Politifact), but does agree that some changes need to made to both Social Security and Medicare to keep it solvent in future years. He says moving the age to 67 for people to receive benefits and raising the wage base cap of $106,000.

Although the Ryan plan would allow seniors to stay with the current Medicare system, Herman fears that it would ultimately affect him. He said that if he had to get private insurance it would cost him around $10,000 a month, while a voucher would only pay for around $6,500 worth of care.

Romney-Ryan supporter Betty Burgess
  • Romney-Ryan supporter Betty Burgess
A few feet away stood Betty Burgess, holding a sign saying "Red State Rising." She does phone banking for the Romney campaign, and says the people she talks to, especially single women, are "terrified of Obamacare." She says Ryan can fix the issues regarding Medicare and Medicaid, which is not something you hear his supporters talk too much about (where he wants to change that government form of health to the poor and disabled into a block grant to the states).

"It is an enormous subject to have a full grasp of, but he lives it, he breathes it, and he is the most knowledgeable person in America today about this problem," she said.

Another big supporter of Paul Ryan is St. Pete resident Ann Goergen, who says she followed Ryan for years in Congress and even contributed to his congressional campaigns. "He is an honest man, a principled man who has the best interests of the country," she said.

Watching the two camps shout it out with a certain sense of bemusement was Alex Snitker, the outspoken Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida in 2010 who is supporting that party's presidential candidate this year, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, in the November election.

Snitker literally was in the middle of the crowd, straddling west of the Democrats but absolutely not standing tall with the Romney supporters, who seemed to annoy him more than the Obama crowd.

"The horrible part is, that there's a lot of people who are standing here today that I went to Tea Parties rallies with when I was running for office," he began telling CL of the rage against government spending has supposedly been a principal tenet of the movement. But Snitker says they're not really Tea Party now.

So I went to all of these rallies and talked to all of these people, and everyone was 'we gotta balance the budget now. We gotta do this. We gotta do this. And I would like to talk to those people two years ago and say that 'well, here's how the whole thing is going to play out. They're (the media) going to move you from guy to guy to guy, meanwhile calling Ron Paul a crazy guy the whole time while he's the only one serious about balancing the budget. And then they're going to make you take Romney," he said disgustedly.

"Are you still going to walk outside?," he continued."Because the people two years that I would have talked to would have said 'hell no' I wouldn't..but they believe what Fox is telling them, they've increased the fear rhetoric on Obama, it's so amazing."

At one point Snitker got into a brief shouting match with a Romney supporter, who had grumbled that the debt only became truly bad after the Democrats won back the House and the Senate in 2006.

"So Medicare Part D was nothing,huh?," Snitkner thundered. "No Child Left Behind? Nothing? Two war? Nothing?" before turning back to this reporter.

"This is the problem we run into. They want to think that the debt was created by Obama..the problem is that Romney's plan takes what Obama's done and increases," he says of the general principals that Mitt Romney has already laid out regarding tax cuts - while the Ryan budget plan he acknowledges doesn't attempt to get the country out of debt for dozens of years.

So the Libertarians aren't happy, though you'll a lot from them next weekend as they descend to Tampa for two like minded festivals. There's the Paul Festival 2012 that goes on for three days at the Florida State Fairgrounds, that will feature Gary Johnson speaking on Saturday night but won't actually have Ron Paul himself scheduled to appear.

But Paul himself will be the rock star of next Sunday when his own festival takes place at the USF Sun Dome.

Meanwhile, it's Florida in another presidential year, and it will be fought intensely year. There usually isn't so much intensity in mid August for a general election, but then again with the RNC coming to Tampa next week, Florida and Tampa Bay, will be where this election may very be decided. Which makes Ryan's appearance an intense event, though only when his motorcade drove by at around 4:55 p.m.on Saturday did the masses actually get to show Ryan their feelings, though surely it was a just an entertaining image glanced at by the congressman and his entourage out of his tinted window.

Some of Pinellas County's most prolific GOP fundraisers came to the Club at Treasure Island on Saturday afternoon to meet and greet Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who in just a week has become one of the most famous men in America after being named by Mitt Romney to be his running mate.

While hundreds doled out $2,500 for an individual seat in the club (or $5,000 for a couple), the high rollers dished out $25,000 or $50,000 to meet up close and personal with the new celebrity in a special VIP reception.

Meanwhile around 70 critics of the Romney-Ryan ticket stood across the street on the Treasure Island Causeway to protest Ryan's visit, while roughly two dozen GOP supporters held their signs as they shared the median on the northern side of the the Treasure Island Causeway.

One of those protesters was St. Petersburg House Democrat Rick Kriseman, who said he still can't believe Romney selected Ryan to be his running mate. "He's telling seniors in the state you're not valued," the soon to be departing state legislator said of Romney's mindset in selecting the House Budget Chairman whose budgets call for major spending cuts while giving tax breaks to the wealthy - and also calls on changing Medicare into a voucher-like system for those under 55.

But the theory that the Ryan pick will automatically doom the Republicans in Florida this November may not be so obvious as some Democrats believe. A Rasmussen poll taken earlier this week showed that Floridians are more afraid of President Obama's health care reform legislation than they are the Ryan Medicare proposal, and when seniors were polled, the gap in favor of the Ryan plan was even more dramatic.

Kriseman says it's up to elected Democrats like himself to make sure the voters know the facts about Ryan's plan for Medicare. He acknowledges that Democrats lost the rhetorical debate early when it came to President Obama's health care bill.


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