Ryan said he showed his kids — Liza, 10, and sons Charles, 8, and Sam, 7 — how to cook a meal on a campfire and make s'mores. Later, he and his wife, Janna, put the kids to bed in a tent.
"We stayed up late and we talked about our country," Ryan said. "There's nothing like the stars and the skies of the Colorado Rockies at night. We looked at our kids and we know they are our future. But today, we look at our kids and we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are mortgaging their future."
When he makes comments like these, Ryan exudes a certain cheery authenticity. He is a former personal trainer, a skier and hiker known for his devotion to the workout routine known as P90X. The Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan is someone who draws budget graphs on napkins. He defends complicated Medicare plans with a boyish charm that prompted New York Times liberal columnist Maureen Dowd to call him "the cutest package that cruelty ever came in."
"Ryan strikes me as a policy wonk who's not a nerd," said Steve Duprey, a member of the Republican National Committee from New Hampshire.
Where Ryan's forte is the budget, Biden is an expert on foreign policy, having served as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Neither Romney nor Ryan has significant foreign policy experience.
Biden has significant credibility in the foreign policy realm, despite a tendency to stray off message.
His use of profanity was betrayed when television cameras captured him mouthing a colorful congratulations to Obama after the passage of his health care law. And just this week, he told a Virginia crowd that Obama needed their help to win North Carolina and referred to the country being in the 20th century — when it's the 21st century.
Biden made a more significant misstep while criticizing Romney's plans to eliminate new Wall Street regulations. "Unchain Wall Street," Biden told a crowd that included hundreds of blacks. "They're going to put y'all back in chains." Romney seized on the comments as proof Obama's campaign is driven by "division and attack and hatred."
Former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., who introduced Biden at a rally this week, said the vice presidential campaign was a study in contrasts. Biden may be a generation older than Ryan, he said, but the vice president "hasn't missed a step."
"He may not work out as aggressively as Paul Ryan, but both of them are plenty fit," Perriello said.
Introducing Ryan this week, former Colorado Rep. Bob Beauprez said that there's one important thing to remember about Ryan: "He ain't Joe Biden."
Daly reported from Blacksburg, Va.
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