Ryan set to campaign on 'are you better off' question

GREENVILLE, North Carolina (CNN) -- Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, will put the question that Democrats struggled to answer this weekend at the heart of his campaign message Monday, September 4th: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

While nothing new for the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan campaign, that question gained renewed attention Sunday after prominent surrogates for President Barack Obama couldn't give a definitive "yes" answer in various television appearances. On Monday Democrats seemed more certain, though still attempted to balance touting improving economic data with the tough realities that many Americans still face.

Ryan, campaigning in North Carolina, will make a stab at answering the question Monday at a campaign stop in Greenville, 230 miles from the site of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Republicans have long sought to portray Obama as unqualified to the challenge of fixing America's ailing economy, and much of last week's Republican National Convention was spent attacking Obama's record on jobs creation.

Romney's campaign said the theme would continue through the week, leading up to Obama's acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, speaking on CNN's "Starting Point," said his team was set up adjacent to the Democrats' event to push their message that Americans are not better off than they were in 2008.

"We were able to secure a great space down the street at the NASCAR Hall of Fame," Priebus said. "We set up with about 50 to 75 press folks down there and we're going to be ready to respond to everything that the Democrats say, and I think that the real issue this week and what you're seeing happening yesterday on the Sunday morning talk shows is the fundamental question back on the table for Americans, which is: Are you better off today than you were three or four years ago? Issues come and go and they will, but at the end of the day this is going to be about facts."

Ryan's presence in his rivals' convention state may seem familiar -- Vice President Joe Biden was supposed to campaign last Monday in Tampa, Florida, just as the Republican convention got underway.

But Biden's two day swing through Florida was canceled due to Hurricane Isaac, which also rained out the first day of the Republican convention.

Both Florida and North Carolina are crucial battleground states that both campaigns are fighting to win. A CNN/Time poll released Monday of likely voters in Florida and North Carolina indicated the race for the White House was knotted up in both states.

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