Updates from Republican National Convention
2012 Republican National Convention
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TAMPA — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney swept to the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, praised lovingly by his wife from their national convention stage as the "man American needs" and cheered by delegates eager to propel him into the fall campaign against President Barack Obama.
The hall erupted in cheers when Romney strolled on stage and shared a hug and kiss with his wife of more than 40 years.
"This man will not fail. This man will not let us down," Mrs. Romney said in a prime-time speech that sounded at times like a heart-to-heart talk among women and at times like a testimonial to her husband's little-known softer side.
"It's the moms who always have to work harder, to make everything right," she said. And she vouched firmly for her husband, who lags behind Obama in surveys among women voters: "You can trust Mitt. He loves America."
Earlier, the Romneys watched on television at a hotel suite across the street from the convention hall as delegates sealed his hard-won victories in the primaries and caucuses of last winter. They ended the evening together in a VIP box just above the convention floor.
To send Romney and ticketmate Paul Ryan into the fall campaign, the convention quickly approved a conservative platform that calls for tax cuts — not government spending — to stimulate the economy at a time of sluggish growth and 8.3 percent unemployment.
Republican mockery of Obama began almost instantly from the podium at a convention postponed once and dogged still by Hurricane Isaac. The Democratic president has "never run a company. He hasn't even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand," declared Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party.
More than eight hours in length, the session inside the Republicans' red-white-and-blue-themed convention hall passed up no opportunity to broaden Romney's appeal. Speakers included Hispanic candidates for office; former Rep. Artur Davis, a one-time Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus; businessmen and women and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Romney's most persistent, conservative nemesis in the nominating campaign.
"Leadership matters," declared New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, keynote speaker and not coincidentally a Republican from a majority-Democratic state. "It's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House."
Mrs. Romney's appearance was the highlight of the night, and it turned the proceedings into something of a his-and-hers convention.
"I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a "storybook marriage. Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once," she said.
"A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage," she added in an appearance meant to cast her multimillionaire-businessman-turned politician in a softer, more likable light.
While there was no doubt about Romney's command over the convention, the residue of a heated campaign for the nomination was evident inside the hall.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who never won a primary or caucus, drew several dozen delegate votes. Earlier, his supporters chanted and booed after the convention adopted rules they opposed, but were powerless to block, to prevent those votes from being officially registered.
Opinion polls made the race a close one as the Republicans' days of pageantry and speechmaking began in earnest, and the man tapped to deliver the keynote address set the stakes.
"Conventions are always huge for a challenger, because they're the ones introducing themselves" to the voters, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Convention planners squeezed two days of speeches and other convention business into one after scrapping Monday's scheduled opener because of fears that Isaac would make a direct hit on the Florida Gulf Coast.
That threat fizzled, but it was instantly replaced by another — that Republicans would wind up holding a political celebration at the same time the storm turned its fury on New Orleans, devastated almost exactly seven years ago by Hurricane Katrina.
Romney's convention planners said they were in frequent contact with weather forecasters, but they declined to discuss what contingency plans, if any, they had to accelerate plans for him to deliver a formal acceptance speech Thursday night.
"This is obviously the biggest speech of my life," Mrs. Romney said as she visited the custom-made podium to prepare for her remarks.
Ratification of a party platform was prelude to Romney's nomination, a document more conservative on abortion than the candidate.
On economic matters, it backs extension of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 and due to expire at year's end, without exception. It also calls for an additional 20 percent reduction in income tax brackets that Romney favors.
In a time of 8.3 percent unemployment and the slowest economic recovery in the post-World War II era, that went to the crux of the campaign for the White House.
By contrast, Obama wants to allow existing tax cuts to expire on upper income taxpayers, and has criticized Romney's overall economic plans as a boon to millionaires that would raise taxes on the middle class.
The GOP platform also pledges that a Republican-controlled Congress will repeal, and Romney will sign, legislation to repeal the health care legislation Obama won from a Democratic-controlled Congress. So, too, for the measure passed to regulate Wall Street in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse.
On abortion, the platform says, "The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."
Romney opposes abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when "the health and life of the mother" are at stake, he said in a convention week interview.
Obama, who accepts renomination at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week, campaigned in Iowa Tuesday as he set out on a tour of college campuses in battleground states in hopes of boosting voter registration among college students.
Before departing the White House, he made a point of appearing before reporters to announce the government's latest steps to help those in the way of Isaac. He signed a declaration of emergency for Mississippi and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local storm response efforts in the state.
His surrogates did their best to counter Romney and the Republicans.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, dismissing GOP attempts to woo Hispanic voters, said, "You can't just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate." He added, "This is a party with a platform that calls for the self-deportation of 11 million people."
Hispanics strongly favor Obama, according to public polls, and Romney and his party have been seeking to win a bigger share of their votes by emphasizing proposals to fix the economy rather than ease their positions on immigration.
Female voters, too, prefer the president over his challenger, and Democrats have done their best to emphasize GOP opposition to abortion and even suggest the party might try and curtail access to contraceptives if it wins power.
Whatever the impact of those issues, the polls show the economy is overwhelmingly the dominant issue in the race, and on that, the voters narrowly say they trust Romney more.
In an AP-GfK poll taken Aug. 16-20, some 48 percent of registered voters said they trust Romney more on economic issues, to 44 percent for Obama.
However, a Washington Post-ABC News in the days immediately before the convention found that 61 percent of registered voters said Obama was more likable, and 27 percent said Romney.
The convention took place in an atmosphere of security that was both stringent and selective. Thousands of police from all over the country, joined by National Guard troops, Secret Service and others, stood in small groups at checkpoints, demanding those entering a secure area display proper credentials numerous times.
But former Michigan Gov. John Engler and an aide were hustled to the front of a long line waiting to clear security at one building.
Aside from Paul, Romney's long-ago rivals for the party nomination had bit roles at his convention, if that.
Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain posed for a photo after running into each other at the convention center. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were also in town, as well, both with speaking slots, unlike Bachmann and Cain.
POSTED at 10:55 p.m.
TAMPA — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is building the case for a Mitt Romney presidency by saying the GOP nominee will tell voters the "hard truths" they need to hear to grow the economy and create jobs.
In remarks prepared for Tuesday's keynote speech at the Republican National Convention, Christie says the United States has no option but to cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government.
Christie is widely viewed as a future presidential candidate. His decision to scrap a commuter rail tunnel endeared him to fiscal conservatives.
He says he was able to balance the state's budget even with lower taxes and took on unions to overhaul a pension system headed toward bankruptcy.
Christie says political leaders have too often taken the easy road — and that voters have let them.
POSTED at 9:30 p.m.
TAMPA — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney swept to the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night at a storm-delayed national convention, every mention of his name cheered by delegates eager to propel him into a campaign to oust President Barack Obama in tough economic times.
Romney watched on television with his wife, Ann, at a hotel suite across the street from the hall as the convention sealed his hard-won victories in the primaries and caucuses of last winter.
"I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a "storybook marriage," she said in excerpts released in advance of a primetime speech meant to cast her multimillionaire-businessman-turned-politician husband in a soft and likable light. "Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once."
"A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage," she said.
Aides said her husband of 43 years would be in the hall when she spoke.
A parade of convention speakers mocked Democratic incumbent Obama mercilessly from a made-for-television podium, as if to make up for lost time at an event postponed once and dogged still by Hurricane Isaac.
The Democratic president has "never run a company. He hasn't even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand," declared Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party.
"Mitt Romney will preserve this exceptional American legacy. Barack Obama will destroy it," said Janine Turner, an actress and radio host.
POSTED at 2 p.m.
His convention speech finished, Republican Mitt Romney planned to outline a "clear vision of a Romney presidency" in a Thursday night address that's likely to touch on the storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast.
Strategists described the speech in broad terms Tuesday and said they had not discussed contingency plans for changing the timing or content of the prime-time address. Hurricane Isaac was expected to slam the Gulf Coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Romney has largely completed work on the speech after months of preparation, according to senior aide Stuart Stevens, who worked closely with the presidential contender to craft what is likely the most important speech of his political career.
"It'll be a clear vision of a Romney presidency, and very much from his heart about America, and why he wants to be president and what his presidency would be like," Stevens told reporters traveling on the plane that brought Romney and his wife, Ann, to Tampa on Tuesday.
Stevens said the speech, about 40 minutes long, would also include some criticism of President Barack Obama.
"Overwhelmingly, a majority of Americans don't want to vote for this president. You see that over and over and over again," Stevens said. "It's still a choice. There will be an element of that."
Asked whether Romney would address the hurricane in his speech, Stevens said: "I think he'll speak to it, yeah."
Romney and his wife spent much of the weekend rehearsing their speeches near their New Hampshire summer home. Mrs. Romney addresses the convention Tuesday night and her husband will be on hand to watch. Mitt Romney speaks Thursday.
"We're always concerned about people's safety," Ann Romney said when asked about the storm.
Isaac, which delayed the start of the convention by a day, now threatens Louisiana and Alabama as Republicans are set to celebrate Romney's nomination.
Stevens acknowledged that the storm could affect whatever political boost Romney might get from the convention. Candidates typically receive a boost of public support after their party conventions. Polls suggest the race between Obama and Romney is very close.
"This convention's different because of the hurricane," Stevens said, adding that conventions are later in the year than they have been traditionally. "I think if the election were held tomorrow we'd win and win pretty easily."
POSTED at 11 a.m.
Florida Republicans got a taste of things to come at breakfast Tuesday, glimpsing both the remainder of their national convention this week and the presidential campaign to follow.
Sen. Marco Rubio spoke to the Florida delegation, offering a preview of the speech he will give Thursday night when he introduces nominees Mitt Romney to the full convention.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and Attorney Gen. Pam Bondi spoke as well, foreshadowing the Republicans’ counter offensive against the Democratic charge, sure to be played up in that party’s convention next week, that Republicans are engaged in a war on women.
In a speech interrupted three times by hecklers, Rubio talked about American exceptionalism and the power of a free market economy.
“Florida really is a microcosm of the country,” he said. “Florida is full of people from somewhere else. You are here is search of a better life. That’s so true of America.”
He talked about what sets America apart. “Though all of human history, almost everyone was poor. Only a handful of people had opportunity and it was usually the same people. America began to change that.”
The belief that individual rights come from the Creator and that government is there to protect, not bestow those rights, advanced freedom and with freedom came the free enterprise system, Rubio said.
Rubio described how his parents came from Cuba and worked in the service industry. “My parents had jobs because someone with money opened a hotel,” he said. “My parents were not rich, but they were successful people.”
The idea that people can work to make a better life for themselves and their children is an American one, He said. “We take that for granted at our peril.”
The election will be about the choice between an agenda that furthers free enterprise and entrepreneurship and one that impedes it, according to Rubio. “He (Romney) offers a very different view of the future than the current president.”
When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he promised to elevated the political discourse, Rubio reminded the delegates. That has no changed, he said. “Barack Obama 2.0 is a divisive figure,” he said.
He wrapped up by imploring the Florida delegates to work hard for Romney in the remaining days before the election.
“We cannot win the election without winning this state. There are people who will not vote unless you get them there. I believe we are only one election away from a new beginning,” he said.
Near the end of his speech, hecklers claiming to be with the group Stand Up Florida interrupted Rubio. “I want you to pay your fair share,” one of them shouted.
As each was being led from the room, Rubio got off some quick retorts.
“I guess he’s unhappy with the hotel assignment,” he said of the first protestor. “I guess he stumbled into the wrong convention. Did he eat the food?”
As the delegates shouted down another heckler with a chant of, “Marco, Marco, Marco,” Rubio, the father of four young children quipped, “Please don’t say Polo.”
# # #
Bondi, who has served as a media surrogate making media appearances on Romney’s behalf, talked about the former Massachusetts governor’s respect for women. His lieutenant governor was a woman as was his chief of staff, she pointed out. “I am sick and tired of hearing Mitt Romney is anti-woman,” Bondi said.
“All the women I talk to care about the same things, jobs. Women have lost jobs under Barack Obama,” she continued.
“The Democrats are trying to create distractions. They’re ridiculous distractions.
# # #
The Florida delegation’s quarters at Innisbrook, a sprawling resort well north of Tampa continued to be a point of amusement and bemusement for delegates and speakers Tuesday.
A bus schedule released Tuesday indicated it will take two hours for Florida delegates to get from Innisbrook to the convention hall downtown.
U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California cracked, “I think I drove all the way to Georgia to see you.”
When Puerto Rico’s Gov. Luis Fortuno was late arriving, master of ceremonies Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said, “The jokes on Innisbrook just keep coming. He’s in Innisbrook but in the wrong building.”
Rubio got in a dig as well. “So you guys didn’t know the convention was in Orlando?
POSTED at 9 a.m.
TAMPA — Republicans are eager to showcase Mitt Romney as a man who understands everyday Americans and a leader who can fix the economy, with GOP National Convention speeches Tuesday by the woman who knows him best and tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But with New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast waiting fearfully to see where a massive storm makes landfall, politics has become an awkward enterprise and no one knows what sort of party the GOP gathering will turn out to be.
After a one-day weather delay, the convention proceeds according to its latest script: delivering Romney the presidential nomination he fought years to achieve, calling the party to unify around him and setting the stage for the final stretch of the hotly contested campaign to unseat President Barack Obama.
Christie, who delivers Tuesday's keynote address, said that for those Americans who aren't yet sold on Romney, "you start turning it around tonight."
In a round of morning talk-show appearances, Christie said Ann Romney would humanize her husband for the nation, and that his own speech would make the case for GOP economic policies and Romney as the fixer. But ultimately, Christie said, it will up to Romney himself "to let the American people see who he is."
Eager to counter Romney's economic pitch to middle class voters, a super PAC supporting Obama unveiled an ad featuring a small businesss owner who criticized the candidate's record on job growth as Massachusetts governor.
The Romneys boarded a plane bound for Tampa, but it was a mystery whether the GOP candidate would attend the convention before his big address Thursday night.
The high campaign season opens with Romney and Obama about even in the last of the pre-convention polls, with each candidate possessing distinct and important advantages. The Democrat is the more likable or empathetic leader; the Republican is more highly regarded as the candidate who can restore the economy, the top issue for voters.
Ann Romney's convention speech was designed to speak to that divide. It was an important part of the GOP's effort to flesh out her husband and present him to the nation as more than a successful businessman and the former Republican governor of a Democratic state, Massachusetts.
She began the business of humanizing the Romney family with a taped appearance on "CBS This Morning" in which she talked about the pain of a miscarriage. The Romneys have five sons.
Isaac, the intensifying tropical storm bordering on a hurricane, skirted Tampa, a big relief for convention organizers worried about the safety of the host city and GOP delegates. But they remain saddled with the question of how to proceed with a political festival — one devoted both to scoring points against Obama and firing up excitement for Romney — under the shadow of a dangerous storm crawling toward the Gulf Coast.
Organizers essentially cut Monday from the schedule, calling the convention to order just long enough to recess it, and shoehorned their four-day showcase into the remaining three days. But even that was subject to change, depending on Isaac's whims.
Republicans plainly had more at stake in their convention week — Democrats meet next week in Charlotte, N.C. — but the Obama campaign also had to recalibrate its tactics as Gulf residents fled their homes or hunkered down. Vice President Joe Biden was called off a Romney-bashing trip to Florida. On Monday, the president worked on preparations for the storm, declaring a state of emergency in Louisiana, speaking with governors and directing federal officials to coordinate disaster relief with state and local officials along the Gulf Coast.
That's not to say partisanship has subsided with Isaac's gathering strength. Hardly.
Obama, after a morning statement from the White House about Isaac, heads to Iowa on Tuesday as the first stop on a campaign trip in which he will make a personal appeal to college voters in three university towns: Ames, Iowa; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Charlottesville, Va.
On Twitter Monday night, Obama circulated a quotation from Women's Health Magazine suggesting that Republicans would take away women's right to contraception, which the Romney campaign denies. "Crazy as it sounds, the fight to limit or even ban birth control is a key issue in the upcoming presidential election," it said.
And Republicans made clear that Obama's performance is very much fair game for the convention. Reince Priebus, the Republican chairman, may have gone beyond Romney's comfort zone on that front when he told "CBS This Morning" that "we need to prosecute the president who seems to be in love with the sound of his own voice."
The suggestion of criminal proceedings against a president, however rhetorical, was a step beyond the ordinary, and Russ Schriefer, Romney's chief convention planner, appeared to dissociate himself from the remark. "I wouldn't define it that way and I wouldn't look at it that way," he told a news conference. "What we would want to do is define what President Obama has done over the last four years, how and why he's failed, and how his leadership has really failed the American people."
In a sign of just how stage-managed these conventions have become, the never-dull Christie did something he rarely does before a speech — wrote down a full text — as he prepared to deliver the keynote address Tuesday night. "They want you to work off a full text and that's fine," he told MSNBC. "I think my challenge up there is gonna be to be natural and be myself."
Romney managed to stir up the pot over abortion, if briefly, when he said in a CBS interview that he opposes abortions except "in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother." Any exceptions made solely on the basis of a woman's health have drawn particularly fierce criticism from abortion foes for years, because they argue such an exception is so broad as to do nothing to limit the procedure.
But Romney's aides quickly said he wasn't, in fact, advocating an exemption for a woman's health. "He opposes abortion except for cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is threatened," said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman. Still, his comment underscored his difference of opinion on the subject with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as well as with his own convention platform, which opposes all abortions.
With the economy seen as Romney's strong suit, and Obama's economic record considered a fat target in a time of persistent unemployment over 8 percent, Republicans, both from the stage and the floor, want to keep a laser focus on the subject.
"We've got to make the case that he is uniquely qualified in this hour," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., interviewed in the hall. "This week is about convincing the 10 percent of undecided voters that Romney has always been called to come out and fix broken organizations."
Even so, there were unmistakable if gentle nudges from Republicans who say it is also vital for Romney to broaden his appeal.
"This is Romney's threshold moment," Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, wrote in The Washington Post. "He must demonstrate that he would follow the example of other Republican presidents in addressing issues important to women."
An AP-GfK poll of registered voters conducted from Aug. 16-20 found Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 44 percent among women. That represented a narrowing of the gap by Romney since a survey in May, when the president led 54-39 among female voters.
Romney trailed badly among another key group. A Gallup poll taken between July 30 and Aug. 1 found Obama winning 60 percent support among Hispanic voters, and the Republican at 27 percent, little different from 64-29 earlier in the year.
Among seniors, the group most affected by a Medicare debate that has become central to the campaign, Romney led Obama by a margin of 52 percent to 42 percent in the recent AP-GfK poll. That was compared with 53-40 in May.