Romney seeks to restore promise of America’
TAMPA, Fla. - Mitt Romney on Thursday night cast himself as a capable and tested executive for a country that has been deeply let down by President Obama, in a speech that marked the culmination of his five-year quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney, 65, showed rare flashes of emotion during the speech, choking up as he described his late mother, and as he talked about the days when his five sons were young. After officially accepting the nomination, he reached out to disaffected voters who were excited about Obama as a candidate in 2008.
"If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" Romney said. "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
Earlier in the night, delegates heard testimonials from one of Romney's sons, members of his Mormon church, and business associates. Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, a surprise guest, gave a rambling and apparently ad-libbed speech that included a dialogue with an empty chair meant to represent Obama.
Romney's appeal capped a Republican primary campaign based on his impressive resume. Romney has presented himself as a sober alternative for a sobered country, burned by its emotional investment in Obama.
In a line that took a swipe at Obama's efforts to fight climate change, Romney presented himself as someone with simpler goals - but more chance of reaching them.
"President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet," he will say. "My promise is to help you and your family."
But on this night, Romney sought to add depth to his campaign persona. He described his parents' 64-year marriage, in which his father left a rose at his mother's bedside every day. Romney cited his own long career in business as evidence that he can do a better job.
"What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn't take a special government commission to tell us what America needs," Romney will say. "What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs."
Earlier, Eastwood's puzzling talk included digressions about the war in Afghanistan and how attorneys should not be president. Obama and Romney both have law degrees.
After shouts from the crowd, he recited his most famous movie line, "make my day." But Eastwood did offer an endorsement of Romney as an alternative to Obama: "Possibly, maybe, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., also appeared, talking about the need to reform and improve public schools. Bush offered a brief defense of his brother, former President George W. Bush, who has had little role in this convention. "My brother, well, I love my brother," Bush said. He also told President Obama to stop using his brother's administration as an excuse for his own. "It's time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies."
Other speakers testified to Romney's smarts as a private-equity executive, including Staples founder Tom Stemberg, whose company was backed by Bain.
Over this crucial week of the campaign, Republicans have highlighted Romney's biography one piece at a time.
His wife, Ann, described his steadfastness as a parent and husband. His running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vouched for Romney's religious devotion. Ryan referred to the two men's different religions (Ryan is a Roman Catholic, Romney a Mormon) while stressing that their faiths "come together in the same moral creed."
In addition, several members of Romney's church spoke Thursday, sharing personal stories about the nominee, a former Mormon bishop. One of them, Pam Finlayson, described Romney bringing Thanksgiving dinner to her home after her daughter was born with a birth defect.
"When it comes to loving our neighbor, we can talk about it - or we can live it. The Romneys live it, every single day," Finlayson said. "When I see Mitt Romney, I know him to be a loving father, a man of faith, and a caring and compassionate friend."
One task was Romney's, to face all by himself.
His speech had to convince Americans that Romney has the combination of steadiness and common touch to win the job he has spent so many years seeking. He began the night with a literal common touch: Romney made an entrance like Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, shaking hands with members of the audience.
"To the majority of Americans who now believe that the future will not be better than the past, I can guarantee you this: if Barack Obama is re-elected, you will be right," he will say.
Romney, who first began running for president in 2007 after serving a single term as Massachusetts governor, spoke a day after Ryan officially accepted the GOP nomination for vice president with a declaration that Obama has failed to deliver on his 2008 electoral promises of hope and change.
Ryan told convention delegates that Obama's presidency is "adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed."
The Obama campaign struck back Thursday. In a fundraising e-mail, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina accused Ryan of repeatedly lying in his acceptance speech.
"He lied about Medicare," Messina wrote. "He lied about the Recovery Act. He lied about the deficit and debt. He even dishonestly attacked Barack Obama for the closing of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin - a plant that closed in December 2008 under George W. Bush. He also failed to offer one constructive idea about what he would do to move the country forward."
Messina continued: "The fact that this speech, on this huge stage, is this blatantly false represents a huge bet by the Romney campaign - they've decided that facts, truth and reality will not be a brake on their campaign message. And they just signaled to the extremist billionaires and corporate interests that support them that they should go ahead and spend their hundreds of millions of dollars attacking Barack Obama with whatever lies can work."