TAMPA, Fla.—Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan set the stage for Mitt Romney with a lively speech Wednesday night that ripped into President Obama and generated sustained roars of approval from the convention crowd.    

Ryan’s message juxtaposed the euphoria of Obama’s 2008 campaign with the concern surrounding the current state of the economy. Ryan touted Romney’s character, while painting Obama’s record as one of failed leadership.

“The issue is not the economy that Barack Obama inherited—not the economy that he envisions—but this economy that we are living,” Ryan said. “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters.”

As for Medicare—the issue Democrats think the Romney-Ryan ticket is most vulnerable on—Ryan took it head on, vowing to protect the program.

“A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom’s generation, for my generation, for my kids and yours,” said Ryan. “Our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn’t going to work.”

A good portion of Ryan’s speech focused on his upbringing and his hometown of Janesville, Wis. He spoke of his father, who died when Ryan was 16, and wiped away a tear when recounting how his mother worked to build her small business.   

Ryan also hit on the housing crisis and the nation’s downgraded credit rating. The vice presidential nominee worked to make the case he has spent the last several years making in Washington: if left unchecked, the country’s current domestic spending levels will lead to fiscal ruin.  

Ultimately, it was Ryan’s critique of Obama and the left that truly roused the convention crowd and set the stage for Romney to officially accept the party’s nomination Thursday night. Rejecting the “sanctimony of central planners,” Ryan made a spirited case for a new direction.

“These past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House,” he said. “What’s missing is leadership in the White House.”