GOFFSTOWN, N.H. â" Mitt Romney joined up again with Paul D. Ryan, his vice-presidential sidekick, on Monday to kick off a week that his campaign hopes will build excitement as the pair head toward their nominating convention next week.
But even as his running mateâs presence continues to animate and enliven Mr. Romneyâs performance on the stump, Mr. Ryan remains a large new target for President Obamaâs campaign and his Democratic allies.
On Monday, Democrats highlighted Mr. Ryanâs history of opposing abortion â" even in cases in which a woman is raped â" after controversial comments from Representative Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri.
Mr. Akin said in a television interview on Sunday that womenâs bodies had ways to block unwanted pregnancies from happening. âIf itâs a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,â Mr. Akin told KTVI-TV in St. Louis.
Mr. Romney has long said that abortion should be legal in cases of rape, and the campaign quickly distanced the presumptive Republican nominee from Mr. Akin on Sunday. That might have been enough if not for Mr. Ryan.
Mr. Ryanâs different position on abortion has given Mr. Obamaâs team an opening, much the way his proposals for turning Medicare into a voucher program have provided fresh ammunition for Democrats to attack the Republican ticket as they appeal to older people.
âAs a Republican leader in the House, Mr. Ryan worked with Mr. Akin to try to pass laws that would ban abortion in all cases, and even narrow the definition of ârape,âÂ â Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, said in a statement on Monday.
âEvery day, women across America grapple with difficult and intensely personal health decisions â" decisions that should ultimately be between a woman and her doctor,â Ms. Smith added. âThese decisions are not made any easier when Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan treat womenâs health as a matter of partisan politics.â
Aides to Mr. Romneyâs campaign have pointed to Mr. Ryanâs positive impact on fund-raising, which had a significant bump in the days after his selection was announced. Polls have been less clear, showing little bounce for Mr. Romney nationally or in battleground states.
What is clear is that Mr. Romney enjoys campaigning with Mr. Ryan. The energy between them was a bit lower on Monday than it was in the days after Mr. Ryanâs announcement. But as the questions came, their energy picked up.
The pair acted like a tag team, answering questions one after another. After a question about policy toward Israel, Mr. Romney offered to let Mr. Ryan go first, saying he did not want to hog the spotlight.
âPaul, Iâve been taking all these first. Itâs not fair. So you take this one, and Iâll take the next one,â Mr. Romney said, chuckling.
The site for Mondayâs town-hall-style meeting was the ivy-covered buildings of Saint Anselm College here. A giant video screen played a biographical video of Mr. Romney and the campaign. A huge banner proclaiming âAmericaâs Comeback Teamâ was hung on the walls of one of the school buildings. The bleachers were strung with red, white and blue.
The Madison Avenue production values may have been aimed at recording the two men for campaign commercials and convention videos. Huge lights and an industrial lift carrying camera operators towered over the event.
The two men are scheduled to separate again as the campaign tries to cover more ground and raise more money in the final days before the convention in Tampa, Fla. Mr. Romney is headed to New Orleans and Texas for fund-raisers. Mr. Ryan will go to Pittsburgh.
But the campaigns have said Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney may reunite later this week as they seek to reap the benefits of a choice that has also caused some headaches.
On Monday, after each candidate gave a somewhat flat rendition of his stump speech alone onstage, eliciting tepid applause, once they were side by side, taking audience questions, the enthusiasm in their voices and in the crowdâs response rose notably.
With both in blue shirts with rolled sleeves and business slacks (pleats for Mr. Romney, flat-front for Mr. Ryan), the two men built on each otherâs answers.
Mr. Romney answered a question about the national debt, then turned to Mr. Ryan, beaming like a conductor cuing up his virtuoso soloist. âI want to hear what he has to say on this topic,â he said. âHeâs been working on this the last 14 years.â
When another questioner challenged the candidates to say how they would get a budget passed, since a gridlocked Congress has not passed one in three years, Mr. Romney replied: âGood question. Paul?â
âWeâre going to follow the law,â Mr. Ryan shot back, drawing a sharp cheer. âYou guys ever heard of a guy named Harry Reid?â he asked the crowd, laying blame at the feet of the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, which has blocked two of Mr. Ryanâs House budgets. âO.K., you have,â Mr. Ryan said as the crowd booed. âI rest my case.â
Perhaps the most prophetic moment came as Mr. Ryan was concluding his remarks with a promise to âelect leadership.â Just then, the bells in the schoolâs bell tower began ringing, leading Mr. Ryan to say, âat the 11th hour!â
When Mr. Romney came to the stage, he was beaming.
âPaul, youâre terrific. Thank you,â Mr. Romney said. âOnly a Catholic guy would be able to get the bells to toll just at the right time at Saint Anselmâs.â