Ryan, Rice Stump for Votes in Berea

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BEREA, Ohio -- Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was joined by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a campaign visit on Wednesday.

Condoleezza Rice, a self-described diehard Cleveland Browns fan, riled up the crowd at the Lou Higgins Center at Baldwin Wallace University.

"This is a pivotal time in our country's history.  We're at a crossroads because we cannot continue to spend money that we cannot afford to pay back and saddle our children with the debts," said Rice, who also served as National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush.

Rice and Congressman Ryan both addressed a crowd of more than a thousand supporters. The event marked a return to Northeast Ohio for Ryan who also stopped in Youngstown last weekend.

"We need to get people back to work, we need to get this economy turned around," said Congressman Ryan.  "We need leadership!"

Ryan's visit was his first stop since the second presidential debate that happened on Tuesday night in New York.  Ryan, a Wisconsin Congressman, said there was no doubt Gov. Mitt Romney had another strong performance.

"We saw a president not offer a single idea or lesson learned about the failures of the past few years," said Ryan, who praised Gov. Romney.  "We saw a leader with solutions."

Several recent polls, including PPP (Public Policy Polling), Rasmussen and NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist, have Gov. Romney and President Barack Obama running in a tighter race, with the president maintaining a small lead in Ohio.  However, Gov. Romney saw a surge following the first debate.

"I don't know about you, here in the Midwest -- here in Big Ten country -- where we come from, most of our jobs come from small businesses," said Ryan, with a reference to Buckeye football at Ohio State University.

"Ladies and gentleman, there's a clear choice, there's a difference between the president and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  I will tell you that difference, they will get the job done," said Brecksville Mayor Jerry Hruby who spoke to the crowd.

During Tuesday's debate in New York, Gov. Romney referred to "binders full of women" when he talked about getting referrals for positions on his staff when he was the governor of Massachusetts.  Opponents argue he is out of touch with the female vote, but Romney has seen an increase in support from female voters in recent weeks.  Part of Wednesday's visit from Secretary Rice was to help court their vote.

"We can't afford to continue to be a country in which so many men - and especially so many women - in these hard economic times don't know if they'll ever work again," said Rice.  "This is an urgent call, not one that can wait another four years."

Ohio is a key state and candidates from both parties have been campaigning heavily here in recent weeks.  President Obama also held a rally on the campus of Ohio University on Wednesday.

In a statement, Obama for America spokesperson Jessica Kershaw told FOX 8 News:

"While Mitt Romney misled voters time and again [during the debate] and refused to explain his indefensible ideas when he was exposed on the emptiness of his own plans, Ryan doubled down [Wednesday] in Berea by trying to peddle their sketchy tax deal – which includes $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.  People in Cuyahoga County and across Ohio know that the Romney-Ryan plan includes one set of rules for them and their friends and another set of rules for everyone else.  We cannot afford the same bad ideas that created the crisis in the first place."

Former President Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen are scheduled to campaign on behalf of the president on Thursday in Parma.  President Obama won Ohio in 2008.

"Ohioans have a unique responsibility, you're the battleground of the battleground states,” said Congressman Ryan.  “You have an obligation to do what's right.”

According to CNN, Gov. Romney has been to the state 16 times since April and President Obama has made 13 trips, including Wednesday's stop in Athens.  Gov. Romney spent Wednesday campaigning in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Both campaigns continue to make heavy ad buys in swing states in the final weeks before the election.  CNN reports the Republican nominee is spending another $3.1 million for television spots in Ohio.

To track the candidates and their campaign stops across the country, click here.