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GOP's Paul Ryan accepts VP nomination

TAMPA, Fla. -- Seizing the campaign spotlight, vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan embraced "the calling of my generation" to help lead the country in tough times last night and pledged to cheering Republican National Convention delegates and a prime-time TV audience that Mitt Romney will make the bold and difficult decisions needed to repair the nation's economy.

"After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney," the Wisconsin lawmaker, 42, declared in what amounted to a national debut. He spoke at a convention dogged by Tropical Storm Isaac, downgraded from a hurricane but still inflicting misery on millions along the nearby northern Gulf Coast.

"We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead," Ryan said.

His speech was part attack on President Barack Obama, part spirited testimonial to Romney, all leavened by a loving tribute to Ryan's own mother, seated across the hall in a VIP box. "To this day, my mom is a role model," he said while she beamed and exchanged smiles with one of his children and delegates cheered.

As for Obama and the Democrats, he said they "have run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division is all they've got left."

To the cheers of delegates, he pledged Republicans would save Medicare from looming bankruptcy, despite constant accusations from Democrats that the GOP approach would shred the program that provides health care to more than 30 million seniors. "Our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate," Ryan declared. But he offered no details of the remedy Republicans would propose.

A generation younger than Romney, Ryan also emphasized their differences as well as their joint commitment to tackle the economy, an evident appeal to younger voters who flocked to Obama's side in 2008.

"I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old," Ryan said.

Romney, in a secondary role for a moment, accused Obama of backing "reckless defense cuts" amounting to $1 trillion. Addressing the American Legion in Indianapolis Wednesday, Romney said, 'There are plenty of places to cut in a federal budget that now totals over $3 trillion. But defense is not one of them."

Earlier Wednesday, a CBS News reporter found a gun left unattended by a Secret Service agent while on Romney's charter flight from Tampa to Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing CBS' website. The reporter alerted officials on board. It's unclear how long the gun was left unattended, but the agent retrieved the weapon and was not on the return flight to Tampa in the evening. Romney's campaign referred questions about the incident to the Secret Service. Agents on the flight declined to comment, and a call to the agency Wednesday night was not returned, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The convention went on as scheduled in Tampa, where Romney watched Wednesday night's speeches from his hotel room with grandkids piled around him and a table full of pizza, The Associated Press reported.

Before Ryan's speech, delegates cheered a parade of party leaders past, present and -- possibly -- future.

President George H.W. Bush, elected in 1988, and his son President George W. Bush, winner in 2000 and 2004, were featured in an evocative video.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party's 2008 nominee, spoke on his 76th birthday.

Former State Secretary Condoleezza Rice praised the GOP ticket in a speech that made no overt mention of Obama. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home and inspire us to lead abroad," she said. "They will provide an answer to the question, 'Where does America stand?' "

Romney delivers his own acceptance speech Thursday night.

With Los Angeles Times

and Bloomberg News

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