MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cemented their new partnership at a high-energy campaign stop in North Carolina on Sunday, where the addition of Ryan seemed to rev up the crowd — and put Romney more at ease than he has previously looked on the trail.
A crowd of 1,700 cheering supporters, with an additional 4,000 waiting outside in two overflow areas, greeted them at a raucous rally in Mooresville, N.C., a place where the influence of NASCAR is so strong that the city is dubbed ‘‘Race City USA.’’
‘‘We feel as your fellow citizens, that we owe you a choice,’’ Ryan told the crowd gathered at the NASCAR Technical Institute. ‘‘A choice between two futures.’’
But the tag-team approach won’t last long, as the pair is planning to split up to cover more ground in the two weeks leading to the GOP convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa.
As Romney planned to head to Florida on Sunday night, his campaign will dispatch Ryan to Iowa — a Midwestern swing state bordering Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, for a rally later Sunday.
Travel plans for the candidates are still in the works, but Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden said Sunday morning that ‘‘it’s likely that they'll be campaigning on different tracks until the convention.’’ That plan will help ‘‘extending our bandwidth,’’ Madden explained.
However many miles apart the two men might be geographically, their policy stances are now firmly entwined.
In appearances on Sunday talk shows, Republicans said the selection of Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and architect of a sweeping plan that makes dramatic cuts to federal programs, would bring a new focus on the brass tacks of policy to the campaign. ‘‘This is a substance-driven campaign versus a fear and smear campaign,’’ said Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, during an appearance on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’
Democrats, who have made electoral hay out of bashing Ryan’s budget, agreed that the Wisconsin Republican’s presence on the ticket would change dynamics of the campaign — but, they said, they welcome the renewed debate. ‘‘It’s a clarifying choice for the American people,’’ Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod said during an appearance on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’
Romney will have to decide quickly how fully to embrace his new No. 2’s lightning-rod budget proposal, which makes controversial cuts and overhauls the Medicare program. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Republicans are willing to engage.
‘‘We’re making a bet that Americans are more interested in a campaign that’s waged on real ideas, including entitlement reform, and that . . . a substantive campaign is going to trump the type of petty, negative politics that we’re hearing from Barack Obama,’’ he said.
‘‘They’re actually willing to put meat on the bones, and put specific proposals on the table, and I think the American public will respect and appreciate that,’’ former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty brushed off questions about whether he was disappointed at not having been selected for the vice presidential slot himself. He had been rumored to be among the top candidates for the post. ‘‘I'm excited for the ticket,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t support Gov. Romney because I expected to be vice president.’’
One Republican, though, indicated that the new blood on the GOP ticket wouldn’t change the fundamentals of the race.
Asked during an appearance on FOX News Sunday whether Romney risked being overshadowed by his running mate, 2008 GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) laughed. ‘‘I had that problem,’’ he said, referring to his vice presidential pick, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Romney, McCain predicted, wouldn’t suffer the same fate. ‘‘I don’t think that’s the case. This is a team that understands the challenges that we face, and obviously there is very good chemistry between the two of them,’’ he said. ‘‘And Americans recognize that running mates are very important, but it’s the top of the ticket obviously that makes what the voters decide on as they enter the ballot booth.’’
For now, though, the Romney campaign is relishing the jolt of energy Ryan seemed to provide both to the candidate and to members of the audience in North Carolina, some of whom arrived as early as 7:30 a.m. to secure spots inside the venue for the 10 a.m. event.
Attendees cheered and one woman yelled out, ‘‘We love you, Paul!’’ as Romney was describing his running mate’s background.
‘‘I feel like I'm in Woodstock!’’ GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory said before the rally. ‘‘There’s a parking jam! It’s a parking lot between Charlotte and Mooresville, between Statesville and Mooresville. You know why? Because there are a lot of people waiting to get in here who built their own business.’’
And Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who was among those introducing Romney and Ryan, told the audience that Obama had won the state by a margin of about 14,000 votes four years ago.
‘‘We've got more than that waiting in line to get in here!’’ McHenry said to big cheers from the crowd.
Romney, whose voice was somewhat hoarse after a busy day on the trail with Ryan on Saturday, appeared animated as he took the microphone after Ryan.
‘‘That’s quite a guy, isn’t he?’’ Romney said.
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Staff writer Philip Rucker contributed to this report.