Paul Ryan didn't tell the nearly 500 Republicans inside the Fresno Convention Center's Valdez Hall on Saturday night anything they didn't already know.
The Republican vice presidential nominee praised his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and told the crowd why he would make a great president.
He also ticked off the reasons why President Barack Obama, Romney's opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, doesn't deserve re-election.
Ryan then cut to the chase during his 18-minute speech.
"It's going to be a close race because it's a closely divided country," he told the crowd.
And that's why the people came Saturday night -- in hopes that their donations might mean the difference between victory and defeat in November's hard-fought election.
They paid $1,000 just to get in the door. Others forked over $10,000 for a table at the event, which also earned them a photo with Ryan. Still others paid $25,000 a couple. Those high-dollar donors had a roundtable with Ryan before the event started.
Central San Joaquin Valley residents paid to see Ryan because they know their vote in November won't matter, thanks to the Electoral College -- which makes the presidential election a state-by-state affair instead of a national winner-take-all showdown.
It is all but certain that Obama will win California. The Golden State will be solid blue in November.
"Forty states aren't competitive in the election, but many people in these states want to participate," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. "They do so by contributing money. That's how California remains important to the GOP."
These fundraising visits -- instead of actual campaigning -- have become the norm in California, not just for Republicans but also Democrats.
And like Romney and Ryan, Obama sees California as fertile fundraising ground. But his areas of strength are Hollywood and the Silicon Valley.
For Romney and Ryan, the San Joaquin Valley has proven to be one of the most reliable fundraising stops in the state.
"We're all doing our part to make sure Romney and Ryan have enough money to win Ohio and Virginia," said Michael Der Manouel Jr., a businessman and chairman of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County.
Before the event, a Romney aide said there were 480 attendees at the fundraiser. Mason Fink, national finance chair for the Romney campaign, told the audience that the event raised "nearly $1 million."
"Money makes the world go round in politics," said west-side grower Mark Borba, a co-sponsor of the event. "Folks in Fresno have really been stepping up this go-round. It is the last hurrah. We're all tired, but we want to know we did what we could."
Protesters outside sensed the same opportunity as the audience inside. With Ryan in town, they took to the streets outside Valdez Hall in downtown Fresno to highlight the negative aspects of a potential Romney presidency.
Groups including Campaign for a Healthy California, Central Valley-Sierra Progressives, Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter and Occupy Fresno led the protests, which talked about Romney's opposition to the Affordable Care Act -- also known as ObamaCare -- as well as immigration reform, cuts to Medicare and the privatization of Social Security.
They held signs that read "Know Justice, No Ryan," "Dreamers Against Ryan" and "Medicare. Love It. Keep It."
Not to be outdone, supporters of Romney and Ryan held a counter-protest. Many of them later showed up inside the Ryan event.
In his address, Ryan spoke of the need to have a leader who has "bedrock principles" and believes in liberty, freedom and free enterprise, someone who has a "moral compass" and "a vision for our country."
"That's Mitt Romney," Ryan said.
Ryan said Romney rescued the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, which were awash in waste, fraud, abuse and cronyism when he was called in.
In addition, Ryan touted Romney's business acumen.
Ryan then turned to the president in contrast. Ryan said Obama can't run on his record, so he attacks others.
"Hope and change has now become attack and blame," Ryan said, a line that drew hearty applause.
Many in attendance said they believe this is a make-or-break election, a turning point for the country. Ryan agreed, even as he noted the divided electorate who have two different visions of what direction the nation should take.
"This is a big election," Ryan said. "This is a watershed election. What kind of country do we want to have?"
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