Posted Sunday, November 17, 2013 -- 10:00 a.m.
By Alex Moe, NBC News
ALTOONA, Iowa -- Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, made his return to the battleground state of Iowa Saturday night and brought a firm warning for Iowans for the next go around: be skeptical.
“The next time you have a famous politician coming through Iowa, breezing through the towns, talking about big government, let’s be a little more skeptical,” Ryan said after berating President Barack Obama and Democrats for the troubled rollout of the health-care law.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but Obamacare has had a few hiccups lately. Don’t you remember though we were told we had to pass this bill to find out what is in it? Well, here we are,” Ryan noted.
The Wisconsin congressman was in town to toast the Republican leader of the first-in-the-nation caucus state -- Republican Gov. Terry Branstad -- at his annual birthday bash.
“Seeing this is Terry’s birthday, I wanted to bring something from Wisconsin that was appropriate,” Ryan said before lifting a foam cheesehead with a picture of Branstad’s mustache in the air and later leading the packed room in singing ‘happy birthday.’
Ryan, who spent a large portion of his speech talking about the problems with the health-care law, also reminisced about Mitt Romney and his “tough loss” in 2012.
“I want to thank all those Iowans who did so much for us in last campaign. I want to thank those of you who worked so hard. We didn’t quite deliver but on behalf of Mitt and myself, thank you very much for everything you did for us,” he said.
Ryan has family ties to the Hawkeye State with his mother-in-law growing up in Clinton and his grandfather going to college in Dubuque. And after being tapped as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, Ryan made his first solo campaign appearance in Aug. 2012 in Iowa at the state fair and was joined by Gov. Branstad.
Still, Obama won Iowa in 2012, 52 percent to 46 percent. And he won the state in 2008 -- both in the general election and caucus contest.
Ryan, who is considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, didn’t rule out visiting the important early state again.
“Maybe we should do this more often. People are being friendly,” he said.
Branstad shot down talk of 2016 when asked about Ryan, praising his congressional leadership instead.
“We’re not talking about presidential politics,” the governor told reporters. “We’re talking about what’s needed to get America back on track financially, and I think there’s nobody in a better position right now to provide some leadership on this critical issue than Paul Ryan.”
The fundraising event for Gov. Branstad at Adventureland Palace Theater just outside Des Moines has drawn popular politicians as keynote speakers in the past.
Back in 2011 leading up to the all-important Iowa caucuses, five of the Republican presidential candidates toasted Iowa’s longtime governor -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum, then-Rep. Ron Paul, and Herman Cain. And just days after the 2012 election, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio headlined the event last year.
And while Ryan was speaking in Iowa Saturday night, other 2016 presidential candidates were visiting other early states as well. Sen. Rubio (R) was scheduled to address the Florida Family Policy Council in Orlando, while Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) keynoted the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Manchester.