TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican Party on Tuesday formally bestowed its presidential nomination on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, launching its convention here with two goals: to make the GOP contender more appealing and sharpen the case against giving President Barack Obama a second term.
Ann Romney, the nominee's wife, represented the velvet glove in that endeavor. In a speech Tuesday evening, she told a love story about her high school sweetheart, her partner though the ups and downs of raising five sons, and her rock through her struggles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. She said he would bring the same qualities to running the country.
"No one will work harder. No one will care more," Romney said, speaking against a backdrop of black-and-white family photographs. "No one will move heaven and Earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live."
"This man will not fail," she said, bringing the convention audience to its feet.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor known for his forthright style, followed her with an indictment of the current White House occupant and his party, saying they are unwilling to be candid with Americans about the challenges ahead.
Romney aimed much of her address at women, a constituency with which her husband and the GOP have struggled to connect, particularly amid recent controversies over birth control and abortion. She said that for women, economic issues trump all others.
"I'm not sure if men really understand this, but I don't think there's a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy," she said. "But these last few years have been harder than they needed to be. . . . The good jobs, the chance at college, that home you want to buy, just get harder."
At the end of her address, her husband made his first appearance at the convention, joining her onstage to the strains of the song "My Girl."
In the keynote address, Christie said of Obama and the Democrats: "They believe that the American people don't want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties and need to be coddled by big government. They believe the American people are content to live the lie with them."
Though he did not mention the president by name, he said, "Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say yes, rather than to say no when no is what's required."
The New Jersey governor is a rising GOP star whose blunt, confrontational style has made him a sensation on YouTube. Many in the party hope that he will be a presidential candidate in coming years.
On Tuesday, however, Christie had to compete with another force of nature: Hurricane Isaac, which was making landfall southeast of New Orleans. For most of the evening, CNN's coverage of the convention included a map in the bottom corner of the screen tracking the storm's progress.
Isaac had forced convention organizers to delay the start of major events by a day, and they were watching the storm carefully, sensitive to the appearance of a partisan celebration against a potential backdrop of devastation.