Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan stopped by the Original Hot Dog Shoppe here this afternoon to chat with voters and grab some lunch. The Wisconsin congressman and fitness nut chowed down on two hot dogs with onion, extra kraut and mustard, a side of small chili-cheese fries, and an unsweetened iced tea. The total bill came to $8.78, including a chili-cheese dog Ryan purchased for a reporter celebrating his twenty-seventh birthday.
"Hey Paul!" yelled an elderly woman while Ryan was placing his order with the cashier. "Good luck! Kick ass!"
The well-wisher, Erma from Howland, Ohio, told me later that she's not worried that Ryan and Romney would end Medicare. "I don't believe it," she said. "Because Obama has a bigger plan to rob Medicare of $617 billion."
"We better worry about Obamacare before we worry about Ryan," added Erma, a self-described conservative. Erma wasn't the only conservative senior citizen at the Original Hot Dog Shoppe to demonstrate that the party faithful have absorbed the Medicare message being pushed by the Romney-Ryan campaign this week.
"Oh, don't believe none of that stuff," Eleanor Costantino, a senior citizen from Warren, told me when I asked her if she was worried about Romney-Ryan taking away Medicare. "It's all nothing but a bunch of lies!"
"He's going to save Medicare," chimed in Eleanor's friend Karen Combs from Cortland, Ohio. "There's $700 billion under Obamacare coming out of Medicare, and seniors should be more frightened over that."
Combs says she hasn't voted for a Democrat since the 1970s, while Eleanor Costantino told me she became a Republican more recently.
"I'd been a Democrat for 50 years, but the last 10 years I've been strictly Republican," Costantino told me. Why did she switch sides? "Because I'm pro-life. And that's it. That changed me completely."
As Ryan worked his way through the restaurant shaking hands and talking to customers, a young woman pulled out a baseball and asked for Ryan's signature. “You happen to have a sharpie and a baseball?” asked an amused Ryan. “All the time,” she replied. "Could you sign the sweet spot?" she asked. Ryan obliged.