Republican Mitt Romneys selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate drew both praise and criticism in this battleground state on Saturday, though it was too soon to tell what lingering impact the pick could have when N.C. voters head to the polls this fall.
Ryan is expected to join Romney at a previously announced appearance Sunday morning at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville. The stop is one of three in the Romney campaigns bus tour of the Tar Heel State.
Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory called Ryan an outstanding pick and lauded the Wisconsin congressmans incredible intellect.
But McCrory declined to comment on Ryans controversial budget plan, which would slash federal spending and remake Medicare by introducing a private option.
I support the concept of taking care of our debt, said McCrory, who plans to join Romney and Ryan on the bus tour. (But) Im not going to get into those specifics. Im running for governor, not Congress.
Still, while many Republicans were quick to rally behind the Romney-Ryan ticket, some Democrats and others panned the choice for the vice presidential nominee.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said Romneys economic policies are actually designed to hurt the middle class. Speaking at a bus-tour stop Saturday that the Democratic National Committee organized as a prebuttal to the Romney campaigns tour, Foxx said Ryans selection further proves his point.
This election is about the fundamental choice our country faces: Barack Obamas plan, which grows our economy from the middle out, or Mitt Romneys plan, which is to try trickle-down economics again, Foxx said during an appearance in Raleigh.
We certainly dont need Mitt Romney and Paul Ryans economic plan.
Pollsters will soon be out in the field to measure public reaction to the decision to add Ryan to the GOP ticket. But a survey by the Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling found last year that North Carolina voters opposed it by a wide margin.
Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, said the Ryan choice was a surprise from Romney, who usually plays it safe.
But I think hes been looking at the (polls) of the past few weeks and seeing no movement nationally or even here in North Carolina, Bitzer said. So he probably said to himself, Ive got to shake things up.
Recent national polls showed Obama was widening his lead over his Republican challenger. The Democrats edge is narrower, though, among voters in battleground states such as North Carolina. A PPP poll released last week showed Obama with a 49 percent to 46 percent advantage over Romney in this state.
In contrast, a poll released this month by the conservative-leaning polling firm Rasmussen Reports showed Romney with a 5-point edge among likely voters in North Carolina. And last weekend, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and GOP leaders from three surrounding states pledged to provide volunteers and other support to help Romney win in the state.
Bitzer said the Ryan pick will likely solidify support from the GOPs conservative base, but the Ryan Medicare plan could alienate seniors.
You scare them with this Medicare plan, he said, and theyll begrudgingly not show up at the polls or even vote for Obama.
Republican Robert Pittenger of Charlotte, who is running for the 9th Congressional District, showed no hesitation in saying he embraced the Ryan budget.
Mr. Ryan has a great plan. Im all for it, Pittenger said. Hes terrific ... and hes going to make it clear that Republicans have a plan to get rid of the $16 trillion debt that Mr. Obama created.
Those sentiments were echoed by Republican Richard Hudson, who hopes to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell in the 8th District.
Calling himself a big fan of Ryan, Hudson said the congressmans Medicare proposal is the only plan that anyone has come forward with that addresses entitlement reform. Democrats have been happy to sit back and take pot shots. The plan of politicians like Larry Kissell and Barack Obama is to let Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt.
Instead of trying to scare voters by distorting the Ryan plan, Hudson added, they ought to come up with their own ideas.
As a GOP political consultant, Charlottes Larry Shaheen said hell wait for upcoming polls to reveal whether the Ryan pick was politically wise. For now, he said, This choice sets everybody on their ears.
But donning his other hat as chairman of the local Young Republicans, Shaheen, 28, praised Romneys decision to add the 42-year-old Ryan to the ticket
This is the best choice he could have made for young voters, Shaheen said. Paul Ryans message for years is that we cannot place this much debt on the next generation. And that message has been well-received.
But Sam Spencer, president of the Young Democrats of North Carolina, said the Ryan plan could hurt Romney in North Carolina. He cited concerns with the plans cuts to Pell grants for college students, HeadStart seats for children and Medicaid.
Jamie Crain, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Democratic Party, said, The choice of Congressman Paul Ryan demonstrates Mitt Romneys commitment to taking us back in time to the same policies that benefited the few and nearly crashed our economy. ... Middle-class families in North Carolina cant afford a Romney-Ryan administration.
Meanwhile, officials from Progress North Carolina Action, a liberal advocacy group, also voiced concern about the pick.
Romneys got a big enough task trying to explain why hes got a Swiss bank account, why he wont release his tax returns and why his company was a major proponent of outsourcing American jobs, Executive Director Gerrick Brenner said in a statement. And now hes got to explain the incredibly unpopular and unwise Ryan Plan. Thats a tough lift for any politician.
Progress North Carolina plans to join a few labor groups, residents and other organizations Sunday for a protest outside of Romneys event in Mooresville. John Frank and Austin Baird of The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.