(USA Today) -- Paul Ryan vowed Mitt Romney would protect the U.S. military from pending budget cuts, as he stumped in Colorado on Monday hours before the final presidential debate zeroed in on national security and foreign policy.
"We will keep America prosperous and America safe, and we will have a strong military," the GOP vice presidential nominee told a crowd in Pueblo West. "We are not going to gut our armed forces."
Romney has criticized President Obama for a deficit-reduction deal that includes automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years on domestic programs, including the defense budget. The first of those cuts is scheduled to take effect in January, in a process known as sequestration.
Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, voted for the deficit-reduction plan but did not mention that in his remarks. The Wisconsin congressman told the Colorado audience that he and Romney have specific plans with "pro-growth solutions" that will boost the economy.
"We've got to stop spending money we don't have," he said.
Ryan's three-city campaign swing in Colorado, home to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Army's Fort Carson among other defense strongholds, and his message of a strong military is emblematic of the stakes in the election and in Monday's debate. Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News has broad sway to bring up the subject of the pending Pentagon budget cuts in one of the six debate segments at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Romney leads Obama in Colorado by less than 1 percentage point, according to the average of five recent statewide polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. Colorado, which Obama easily carried in 2008, has nine electoral votes up for grabs.
Ryan was in Colorado Springs on Sunday and plans to visit Durango and Grand Junction on Monday. He and Romney will appear together at a rally Tuesday in Denver at the Red Rocks Amphitheater.