Many of Knoxville's high-profile Republicans dined Thursday afternoon with the man they hope will be the next Vice President of the United States.
Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's GOP running mate, headlined a fundraising lunch at the Marriott hotel in downtown Knoxville. The high-priced lunch cost $1,000 dollars a ticket for the meal and a speech by the Wisconsin congressman. Republican Governor Bill Haslam introduced Ryan at the luncheon.
The local media was not allowed to attend the private event, which was held at the Marriott in downtown Knoxville. A strong presence of police officers and secret service agents kept the public and a few dozen protesters off the hotel's property during Ryan's visit.
The Associated Press reports Ryan said Democratic President Barack
Obama's policies have the country headed toward economic crisis similar
to what's occurring in some European countries.
WBIR Inside Tennessee panelist and former Tennessee Republican Party chair Susan Richardson Williams attended Thursday's fundraiser. Williams shared photographs she took during Ryan's remarks and relayed her account of his speech.
"He [Ryan] talked a lot about the budget and about debt and about spending, which is no surprise," said Williams. "He also talked a lot about Mitt Romney and who that person is and why he is so supportive of him."
Williams said the main thing she will remember about the event is the amount of money it generated for the Romney-Ryan camp.
"We raised a million dollars today," said Williams. "Honestly, that is amazing in East Tennessee when you consider our state is not considered a focus of either campaign. I think everybody is concerned about the direction our country is going."
Analysts believe the Romney/Ryan ticket will carry Tennessee in the November election. The $1 million raised for the campaign will likely be used to rally support in battleground states.
"For my part, I'm happy to send my thousand dollars to Virginia or Ohio or North Carolina or some of the states where it's really going to make a difference," said Williams.
Ryan left Knoxville around 1 PM and headed for Memphis for another fundraiser later Thursday.
A few dozen supporters of President Barrack Obama lined the street outside the Marriott and protested Ryan's visit. The group held homemade signs and chanted messages of opposition to the Romney-Ryan ticket for a few hours.
"I feel like it was empowering," said Paul Berney, a Knoxville resident and supporter of President Obama. "It was great to see people feeling like it's important enough to take their lunch breaks and take a little bit of time to come out and have their voices heard."
The voices of opposition included some elected officials. Joe Armstrong, a democratic state representative of Knoxville, spoke to the crowd and rallied support for President Obama. Armstrong also criticized Ryan for failing to speak to the public or press during his stop in East Tennessee.
"This event is for millionaires. What it's about is [they think] Tennessee is just a cash cow for the Romney campaign," said Armstrong. "We are here to let them know the 47 percent of people Romney says are not contributing to this country do matter and have a stake in this election. I will also remind people that President Obama won the majority of votes right here in the city Ryan is holding his fundraiser. The president did not win the state of Tennessee, but he carried the municipalities in 2008."