FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan criticized Democratic President Barack Obama, raised $1.2 million at a private reception and was greeted by a comedian and a country music star as he made campaign stops Thursday across Florida.
In a visit to Fort Myers at sunset — where some 3,600 people had gathered — musician Lee Greenwood was on hand to play patriotic country tunes and comedian Dennis Miller entertained the crowd before Ryan took the stage.
"I've had it with the hipster president," Miller joked about President Obama, then added a reference to Romney: "I am ready for the 'gosh' president."
During all of the stops, Ryan focused on the economy, a strong military and job creation.
In a visit to Ocala earlier in the day, Ryan accused Obama of running a campaign based on divisiveness.
"He's basically trying to disqualify his opponent with a sea of negativity," Ryan said. "He's trying to divide this country, pitting people against each other. He's trying to win this election by default. You know what, we're not going to let him get away with that."
He drew distinctions between Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"We have a moral obligation to save the American dream," Ryan said. "We have a very clear choice: stagnation or growth."
Ryan spoke for about an hour to an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand.
He said Social Security and Medicare wouldn't change under the GOP ticket's plan for people 55 and over. For younger generations, Ryan said he advocates subsidies — with amounts yet to be determined — to help future retirees buy private insurance or join a government plan modeled on traditional Medicare. He said the Republican plan would give people more choice.
Ryan took a handful of questions from the crowd, including one on homeschooling.
"We believe in freedom. If you believe the best way to raise your children is to homeschool your children, then God bless you," Ryan said.
The crowd, comprised of many retirees, appeared to enjoy Ryan's remarks.
"I think he's a good speaker, I like him," said 66-year-old Charles Alstrin, a retired mechanical engineer. "I agree with most of what they are saying."
Alstrin said his mind has been made up for months about voting for Romney, and said he appreciated Ryan's frequent use of numbers and statistics to bolster the campaign's assertions.
"I think there needs to be more numbers," said Alstrin. "How much does this debt cost us individually? I would like to hear most of these numbers in individual terms, or in unit terms, like a family."
In a news release sent minutes after Ryan left the stage, the Obama campaign asserted that Romney's plan will do the country more harm in the short term.
A few dozen Obama supporters stood on a nearby sidewalk and loudly booed and chanted during Ryan's speech. One woman wandered the perimeter with a sign that read, "Mitt and Ryan are liars." It drew scorn from some GOP supporters.
"You don't know what you're talking about!" a man shouted at the woman with the sign.
Also on Thursday, Ryan spoke for about 10 minutes in Naples to a group of 115 people that included Romney's former business partner Bill Bain and former ambassadors from the Bahamas and the Holy See.
Friday, Ryan and Romney will appear at an event in Daytona Beach.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden will make campaign stops in Florida on Friday and Saturday. All of the presidential candidates, vice presidential candidates and their wives are crisscrossing Florida over several days around the final presidential debate on Monday.
Tamara Lush reported from Ocala.
Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tamaralush