Ryan: I'm pretty happy clinging to my guns and religion, thanks

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of being reminded of then-candidate Obama’s exquisitely revealing moment of behind-the-scenes honesty when discussing the political motivations of rural Pennsylvanians and midwesterners, etcetera back in 2008. “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them… And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Why, yes, I do actually choose to put my faith in things other than the largesse of the federal government — and I’m damn proud of it, thank you very much.

Paul Ryan brought back that rallying cry at a campaign event in Pennsylvania today, inciting cheers from the large assembly:

In remarks at a steel company in this borough southwest of Pittsburgh, Ryan reminded the audience of more than 1,000 of the 2008 Obama statement, then used his own resume as a counter-example.

“Hey, I’m a Catholic deer-hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion,” Ryan said to huge cheers and applause.

So classic — it warms my heart. With the help of moments like these, as Fred Barnes opined in today’s WSJ, I think Ryan’s entrance into the race is helping Romney’s campaign to strike just the right tone — he’s brilliant yet approachable, and is helping to make this race more about a fundamental battle to determine the role of government in our lives than any other single issue.

The Ryan Effect turned the race upside down. The thrust of Mr. Obama’s bid for re-election had been maligning Mr. Romney and pandering to Democratic interest groups. Mr. Romney was concentrating on attacking Mr. Obama for the subpar economic recovery and weak job growth.

The economy remains a central issue, as do Mr. Obama’s overall record and Mr. Romney’s past one. But now the looming fiscal crisis, Medicare, and the size and role of government are front and center of the campaign. The presidential contest has been elevated into a clash of big ideas and fundamental differences. Neither presidential candidate, but especially Mr. Obama, could have imagined this. Credit Mr. Ryan. …

What particularly upsets opponents is Mr. Ryan’s image. “The disarming thing is his sense of mission is greater than his sense of ambition,” says Ryan adviser David Smick, a Washington economic consultant. “This is disconcerting to his critics.”