Paul Ryan campaigns in Richmond
In his first rally following the Republican National Convention, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan told supporters Friday that Virginia is important to the party's success in the November election.
"We're going to bring real leadership back to the White House. And with your help, Virginia ... we can get this done," said Ryan, who was introduced as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate on Aug. 11 during a campaign stop in Norfolk and has since made stops in Richmond, Roanoke and northern Virginia.
With temperatures reaching into the 90s, several hundred supporters sought shade in the airplane hangar listening to the Wisconsin congressman speak for less than 20 minutes.
Others stood on the tarmac and sat on bleachers draped with the American and Virginia flags, using campaign signs to shield them from the sun.
Parents hoisted children on their shoulders amid waving flags, chants of "USA!" and the roar of plane engines in the distance at Richmond International Airport.
Lois Anderson and daughter Leah made the trip from Fredericksburg. She says it was worth every mile even if Romney wasn’t there.
“I understand why he's not here,” Anderson said of Romney not appearing. “But I’m sure do hope we get a raincheck at the rope line!”
Romney also had been scheduled to attend the fly-in, but made a last-minute change to tour damage from Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana instead.
Ryan was joined Friday afternoon by the Republican slate on this fall's Virginia ballot, including Senate candidate George Allen, and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and other state leaders also were in attendance.
Ray Funkhouser drove for an hour and a half to make it to the rope line and was rewarded with an autographed ball cap.
“I just couldn’t sit back any more,” he said when asked why he chose to come to a rally after 61 years without attending one.
The rally came just two days after President Barack Obama ended a three-city swing-state tour of college campuses at Charlottesville on Wednesday.
Polls in Virginia show Obama with a slim lead over Romney, but with Romney narrowing the margin.
In 2008, Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and he needs to repeat the feat this fall to ensure his re-election.
Among those who came to show support for the Republican ticket was 62-year-old Phil Aaron of Fredericksburg, who wore a T-shirt that read: "Government didn't build my business, I did," referring to Obama's "you didn't build that" remark at a Roanoke campaign event in July.
"As a small business owner, I have to support their policies," said Aaron, a sales and marketing consultant. "I just don't feel like I'm being supported by the current administration at all and I've got to speak up for my business, my welfare, my family and make sure that I'm supported."
Aaron said that many of the business owners he works with are "fearful" and hesitant about making financial investments and commitments.
"My livelihood is made on their ability to make a decision to use me as a marketing tool to build their business and I'm working about three times harder for a third less," Aaron said.
On the other end of the spectrum, 42-year-old stay-at-home mom Sharon Huminsky of Richmond brought her five-and-a-half-month-old son, Patrick, to the rally because of the ticket's focus on family, jobs, their pro-life stance, and "not to sound crazy, but bringing God back into the world."
"It's what our country was founded on and that's what I believe," Huminsky said. "When you want to raise your child in a Christian home, you don't want them to be told they can't."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.