By Russell Berman - 09/20/12 03:00 PM EDT
Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan delivered a pep talk to his House colleagues on Thursday, telling them not to be distracted by the daily polls and controversies of the campaign.
"This is going to be an up and down race,” Ryan told the House GOP in a closed-door conference meeting, according to a Republican aide in the room. “Three polls came out that have us within one point. They are going to [try to] distract us.”
Ryan projected optimism in the face of a slew of swing state and national polls showing President Obama leading Mitt Romney by several points. Lawmakers said the Wisconsin Republican made no direct mention of Romney’s comments about the “47 percent” of likely Obama voters, whom he disparaged in a May fundraiser caught in a video that was leaked this week.
"We are going to win this thing,” he said.
Ryan attended the meeting on Capitol Hill for less than 30 minutes, and the GOP aide said he left to a standing ovation. Lawmakers said Ryan took no questions from his colleagues.
Republicans said Ryan’s remarks energized the conference, which includes many members who have long voiced confidence in the trajectory of the campaign.
“It was all positive,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
In Jordan’s critical home state of Ohio, two recent polls have shown Obama leading Romney by seven points. But Jordan said those polls don't reflect what he's seeing on the ground in the state.
“It’s not what you feel. It really isn’t,” Jordan said. “It’s just so different than 2008. You can just sense it.”
Obama won Ohio by six points four years ago.
Ryan did not join House Republican leaders at a post-meeting press conference, and the leadership made little mention of the Romney-Ryan ticket until they were peppered with questions from reporters.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) repeatedly refused to comment directly on Romney’s “47 percent” remarks.
“This election is about jobs. We’ve said this for 20 months, and it hasn’t changed,” Boehner said. “Everybody is going to try to make this election about everything other than what it is. The American people are asking the question, where are the jobs? So the focus is on jobs. The president’s economic policies have failed, and the American people know it.”
Pressed by a reporter, Boehner said members of both campaigns say things that “get off-message,” and he said he understood the plight of struggling Americans in part because two of his brothers-in-law had lost their jobs during the recession. “I know what’s happening out there, and I know how difficult this economy is,” Boehner said.
Boehner was dismissive of commentary that Romney is losing, which he characterized as “political handwringing by Washington insiders trying to make this race look like it’s over for the president who’s going to win.”
He touted Gallup polling that has shown a consistently tight race and a drop-off in Obama’s bounce from the Democratic National Convention.
“Think of this as a card game,” Boehner said in describing his assessment of the presidential race. “The president has played his cards. His economic policy has failed. His foreign policy has failed. His energy policy has failed. His cards are played. Mitt Romney has a plan to get our economy back on track.”
The Speaker said Republicans had already made more voter contacts to surpass the vaunted ground game that won elections in 2000 and 2004 for George W. Bush. Democrats in recent days have said the same about the Obama ground game — that it is already ahead of its 2008 pace.
“This race is far from over, and I’m looking forward to the next 46 days,” Boehner said, before making a quip about his frenetic campaign schedule. “I just hope I survive.”
Ryan was not the only star Republicans heard from on Thursday. Kevin Sorbo, the actor of “Hercules” fame, also addressed the conference. His message? “There are conservatives in Hollywood!” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the conference vice chairwoman. “We have allies in Hollywood, and there’s more than you might think.”
— This story was last updated at 3:42 p.m.