â€œPaul â€” from Kentucky?â€ Smith said, referring to the junior Kentucky senator, Rand Paul. â€œDefinitely a good move. I didnâ€™t support Romney in the primary, but I will now with Paul in there.â€
And so it went Sunday in the crucial swing state of Florida, in the GOP stronghold of St. Johnâ€™s County, and just down the bright gray highway from where the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is scheduled to campaign Monday without his vice presidential pick, the man named Paul Ryan, 42, a congressman from Wisconsin.
A rising player among conservatives in Washington, Ryan was only vaguely familiar to the breakfast crowd at the Spot Cafe, where diners were mostly older than 50, representing a critical demographic Romney needs to win Florida.
â€œI know nothing about that gentleman,â€ said Stuart Joseph, 79, heaping sugar into his coffee.
And aboutÂ Ryanâ€™s plan to cut the federal budget?
â€œNothing,â€ Joseph said, stirring.
About Ryanâ€™s plan to restructure Medicare?
â€œNope,â€ Joseph said, sipping.
Ryanâ€™s relative obscurity here stands in contrast to the large crowds that greeted him and Romney at campaign stops this weekend in Virginia and North Carolina, and to pundits already speculating about whether Ryan will motivate Romneyâ€™s conservative base or spook baby boomers and seniors across Florida with his Medicare plan.
â€œPaul Ryanâ€™s his name?â€ asked Floyd Register, 62, a county worker who hasnâ€™t quite decided who he will vote for in November.
And so, TV and radio advertising in Florida for the next three months is likely to be relentless: President Obamaâ€™s campaign will cast Ryanâ€™s proposal as the death knell of Medicare, and Romney will cast it as the programâ€™s only salvation.
For Romney, the process launched Sunday, when he and Ryan, whose mother is on Medicare in Florida, appeared on CBSâ€™s â€œ60 Minutesâ€ and introduced Ryanâ€™s proposal as one that will save Medicare for future generations.
â€œYouâ€™re going to have to do a little selling,â€ reporter Bob ÂSchieffer said to Romney, a point that diners underlined Sunday.