By Steve Holland
GOFFSTOWN, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan engaged in tag-team attacks on President Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve on Monday at a joint appearance that showcased the chemistry between the Republican presidential candidate and his running mate.
Romney, 65, and Ryan, 42, took their act to New Hampshire, a swing state whose four electoral votes could play an outsize role in determining the winner in the November 6 presidential election in a race that remains agonizingly close with fewer than 80 days of campaigning left.
Romney's goal is to introduce his vice presidential pick to American voters and seek to reassure them that a Ryan-backed budget plan in the House of Representatives would not lead to dramatic cuts to the Medicare health program for seniors.
Since his candidacy was announced just over a week ago, Democrats have engaged in an assault on Ryan for promoting a Medicare plan that would change how Americans currently under age 55 would receive benefits when they retire.
The Medicare debate has changed the focus of the campaign, which had been fought for the most part on the health of the U.S. economy. The Romney campaign has sought to turn the Medicare issue into a strength by saying Romney and Ryan would repair a troubled program.
Ryan, accusing Obama of using $716 billion in Medicare funds to pay for his healthcare overhaul, told the crowd "we need this debate" about the future of the expensive entitlement program. "We're going to win this debate about Medicare," he said.
AUDIT THE FED
At a town hall meeting, a question about the Federal Reserve, which many conservatives feel is an overly powerful agency that lacks transparency, drew an appeal from Romney for an audit of the Fed and a demand that Obama's own government spending be investigated.
"The answer is yes to that, very simple, the answer is yes," Romney said when asked whether the Fed should be audited. "The Federal Reserve should be accountable. We should see what they're doing."
And Romney questioned Obama's spending in the wake of the collapse of Solyndra, a solar panel company that folded after receiving $500 million from Obama's 2009 $862 billion economic stimulus.
"I'd like to take a very close look at what this president is doing with his budget, where he's spending his money. I think people would find it very interesting to see how much money has gone into these companies that are owned by campaign contributors of his. It stinks to high heaven," he said.
Romney and Ryan last campaigned together more than week ago in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, shortly after Romney announced him as his pick for vice president. The Romney campaign likes it when they team up, believing it boosts both men, and New Hampshire's town hall meeting was likely to be the first of many such joint outings.
The session had its light moments. Romney, a Boston Red Sox baseball fan, teased a man wearing a New York Yankees shirt and Ryan had a quip for a woman who announced her son was missing school to be at the event.
"We're not going to clap for that," he said.
The patience of some in the Goffstown crowd had its limits. As the event stretched past one hour, some could be seen trickling away from the outdoor site at St. Anselm College.
While most of the town hall questions were about how to tame America's runaway debt and deficits, some foreign policy issues emerged that Romney has not talked about much, such as what he would do about the Afghanistan conflict.
With U.S. troops set to pull out by the end of 2014 under Obama's direction, Romney said the president has not given the American people the kind of update on the aims of the Afghan war mission that he should have.
"We haven't heard this president do this," said Romney. "This is something he should do time and again."
Obama has held up the mission he ordered that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year as a major national security achievement on the campaign trail.
Ryan, who lacks foreign policy experience, pointed out he does have some national security bonafides, pointing to a trip he took to Afghanistan's Helmand Province, "learning and listening to our troops who are fighting there."
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Vicki Allen)
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