By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
SABINA, Ohio (AP) — Paul Ryan might as well be an Ohioan.
The farm fields smell familiar. They small town streets look just like his. The chill in the air and the harvested fields look plucked right from the next Wisconsin town over from his.
Heck, his state's largest football program plays in Ohio State's division, too.
As Ryan traipsed through small Ohio towns and cities this weekend, he did everything he could to sell himself as the neighbor up the block who just happens to be the Republican vice presidential nominee. Look for that approach to continue in the campaign's final week, as Ryan tries to connect with working class voters who are skeptical of running mate Mitt Romney's vast personal wealth or who aren't sure they are ready to vote President Barack Obama out of office.
"This reminds me of the gym Janna would have gone to in high school," he said here late Saturday, pointing to his wife.
Earlier in the day, standing in a pavilion with corn fields to on one side and a pumpkin patch to the other, Ryan sought to connect with these rural voters.
"I come from Janesville, Wisconsin. I look around here and I feel like I'm 10 miles from my house," he said in Yellow Springs.
And he even tried to sell voters on the fact their town sounded similar to his.
"I almost slipped," he said in Zanesville, Ohio. "I almost said, 'Hello, Janesville.' That's where I'm from."
But he has a connection to the town, he insists.
"I went to school with a guy from Zanesville, Ohio," Ryan said of his college years at Miami of Ohio. "His family had some drycleaners here if I recall. Gus is one of my friends from college."
The economy, too, is similar.
"In our part of the country, we are proud," he said in Yellow Springs. "We make things. We grow things. And we sell things. We create jobs and we make good livings for ourselves."
He even invoked sports to connect with his crowds.
"We come from Big Ten country," he said repeatedly on his four-day trip here. "I'm just happy the Badgers and Buckeyes play after the election," he said of the University of Wisconsin-Ohio State University rivalry.
Ryan arrived here Friday night for a joint rally with Romney under the lights of a high school athletic field. He visited two more high schools on Saturday and another on Sunday, along with stops in a bakery and a factory.
All the while, he played up his familiarity for voters still making up their minds.
"I come from southern Wisconsin," he said at one stop. "Where I come from is so similar to here in New Philadelphia."
"We were kind of a one-factory town," Ryan added. Then, the General Motors plant there closed and residents who counted on jobs paying $25 or $30 an hour that were no longer there were left struggling.
"The thinking was, as it always was, you can get a really good job," he said.
He cited a friend who went from making $25 an hour with benefits to $9 an hour without.
"That's the story of the American economy right now. ... That's the story that will end on November 6 when we turn this thing around," Ryan pledged.
In the audience, supporters nodded. They know the story well.
The question now is if there are enough nods to push Ryan and Romney to a win and claim this state's 18 electoral votes that have become the lynchpin for the election. Both Romney's and President Barack Obama's headquarters are keeping a close eye on this state, where polling is close and airwaves are packed with ads.
"Ohio, are you ready to help us win?" Ryan asked supporters who stood for hours as the sun set over the high school sports field as temperatures dropped into the 40s.
"You know that you are the epicenter of choosing the future of this country," he told the North Canton crowd. "You understand the responsibility and the opportunity you have."
He, of course, led the crowd in the state's cheer at that and every other stop: "O-H," he began.
"I-O," the crowd replied.
"Even for a Badger fan, that's fun to do," Ryan chuckled in Celina.