LIMA, Ohio -- There's no doubt Ohio Republicans are nervous. Nearly every day brings a new poll showing Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney in their state, and all are acutely aware that if Romney loses Ohio, chances are he'll lose the election.
Many doubt the polls. (That's another story, coming soon.) But they also have their worries about Romney. Before Paul Ryan's appearance at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center in this northwestern Ohio city of 38,000, I spoke to Republicans waiting to enter the rally. I asked each this question: As you've watched the Romney campaign, have you been happy about how it's been run? It's rare that one question elicits an almost unanimous response, but this one did:
"I'd certainly like to see the campaign be more aggressive," said Morris Murray of Defiance, Ohio.
"I think he could be a little more aggressive," said Judy Black of Lima.
"I wish he would be more aggressive," said Bob Wieging of Delphos.
"I'd like him to be more forceful," said Ron Davis of Lima.
"I think he could be a little bolder," said John Leahy of Elida.
"I think he should be hitting harder," said James O'Hara of Lima.
"I think he's got to get a little more fire under him," said Paul Hurley of Lima.
"I want him to be a little firmer, more aggressive," said Carol Berg of Wapakoneta.
"He should go after [Obama] a little more," said Dave Halker of Columbus Grove.
"I think he could be a little more on the offense side, instead of being on defense," said Neil Brown of Spencerville.
And so on.
Of course, people said more than that. Most weren't talking about Romney attacking Obama personally, although a few wanted that. Instead, the majority pictured a more aggressive Romney as one who made the case for his own candidacy more vigorously, and also more clearly highlighted the contrasts between his proposals and a potential Obama second term.
"I mean positive things to say what he is going to do to get things on track," explained John Leahy.
"I don't know if it's critical, but to be more aggressive in the way he presents his plan," said Judy Black.
"On the issues," added Dave Halker.
After the rally began, and Ryan's remarks focused mostly on his and Romney's pledge to bring federal spending under control, a man named Dan Hermiller stood up and said what a lot of people apparently were thinking. "We need backbone in the Republican Party," Hermiller told Ryan. Whenever Republicans have a good idea, the man continued, "what happens every time that really upsets me is that they bow and then back away from it." As the crowd cheered loudly, Hermiller concluded, "We as Republicans have got to get a backbone and don't cave."
It was probably the most popular thing said by any speaker at the rally, Ryan included.
The Republicans who came to hear Ryan know very well that time is passing quickly. They worry that Romney has missed some opportunities to take the fight to Obama. But they also know that Romney can accomplish a lot in the six weeks left before Election Day -- if he is more aggressive in his pursuit of victory.