GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took a break from cramming for his Thursday debate with Vice President Joe Biden to haul $2.5 million from a Sunday fund-raiser at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont.
First, some Mitt Romney/Illinois fund-raising updates -- then I'll give you a fill on how Ryan and Biden are preparing for their showdown.
On the campaign cash front, the checks have been totaled from the fund-raiser Romney headlined last month in Lake Forest, and the take was $4.4 million.
That's the "largest single Republican fund-raiser in Illinois history," State Treasurer and Romney Illinois chairman Dan Rutherford told me Sunday.
Since the primary, Illinois donors have raised, on President Barack Obama's home turf, more than $20 million, Illinois finance co-chair Ty Fahner told me just before the Ryan event started. That's money to the joint Romney/Republican National Committee joint fund-raising drive, SuperPacs not included.
"You know, Illinois has done a lot of good for this country," Ryan said at the Rosemont reception, where tickets ranged from $2,500 to $75,800-per-person.
"Illinois has also sent some other people to serve our country. This isn't a personal thing with President Obama, nothing like that. It's just that his ideas don't work. He came in with all these grand promises, all this hope and this change, and didn't fulfill any of those promises," he said.
Intense debate prep
Ryan made the Illinois stop amid intense practice for the Thursday vice presidential debate -- there will be only one -- at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
After Romney bested Obama at their Denver debate last Wednesday, the Ryan team is braced for Biden "to come after us aggressively," a Romney/Ryan campaign official told me.
Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, faces enormous challenges. A seven-term House member, Ryan has only been on the mega-national stage since Romney tapped him for the ticket Aug. 11.
Biden -- who ran twice for president -- has been in 18 presidential and vice presidential debates over the past two decades. He's been in office for 40 years -- as a senator or vice president.
Ryan has been memorizing statistics, phrases and language he might use -- and watching a slew of Biden debate and speech tapes.
He's been working on debate prep for almost a month, hunkering down the past several weeks, holding three mock debates as of Sunday.
While Romney and Obama were debating last Wednesday, Ryan was watching from his debate training camp at the Wintergreen Resort in battleground Virginia. Later this week, Ryan finishes up at another round of debate prep holed up near Tampa -- in battleground Florida.
Ryan's delivery also has to factor in a generational gap. He has to look the role.
Ryan, a youthful looking 42, will spar with Biden, who turns 70 on Nov. 20. Ryan was 2 years old when Biden was first elected to the Senate. That's a reason Ryan's sparring partner is Ted Olson, 72, a former solicitor general who -- as does Biden -- has a down-to-earth manner.
Ryan's team is lowering expectations.
"A lot of people give Joe Biden grief for some verbal gaffes, but if you go back and look at his debates, he's always been a solid debater," the Romney/Ryan official said.
Ryan also is working on speaking in plain English -- he is prone to using a budgeteer's jargon.
Biden has his own challenges.
"Biden has to kind of clean up the mess from last week, and there is a lot of pressure on him," Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady told me. If Ryan "just gets up there and holds his own, that would be a victory for him."
Fahner said Biden's "charm and his bombast won't work here . . . he is going to have to answer to this, just like Obama was supposed to but failed to."
Biden's debate partner is Rep. Chris Van Hollen, 53, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee -- Ryan's counterpart.
Biden's debate camp is in Wilmington, Del., this week. Biden has had two mock debates with Maryland's Van Hollen -- and is studying tapes of Ryan interviews and speeches.
Ron Gidwitz, a Romney Illinois finance co-chair told me Romney's debate triumph has energized the Romney troops.
Said Gidwitz, "They went from a little bit down in the mouth overnight to excited, energized [and] recommitted."
Audio, video banned
Ryan did not mention Romney's 47 percent video in his remarks at the Rosemont reception, which a pool reporter was allowed to cover. (No pooler was at the brunch for jumbo donors.)
Romney's seemingly disparaging comments about 47 percent of voters was caught at a secretly recorded video at a Romney fund-raiser. Outside the Ryan event was a sign: "No video or audio recordings allowed . . . thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation."