Wednesday August 29, 2012
Ann brings the love as Romney wraps up nomination
TAMPA, Florida - Mitt Romney wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday as wife Ann prepared to sell their family values and personal love story to US voters in a prime-time convention speech.
In a state-by-state roll call of delegates on the convention floor in Tampa, Florida that reflected the results of the Republican primary elections, Romney soared past the 1,144 threshold needed to formally earn the nomination.
The process removed any shadow of doubt that the man who will take on President Barack Obama in the November election could face a last-minute challenge.
The 65-year-old multi-millionaire businessman will formally take up the nomination with his all-important acceptance speech on Thursday, the climax of three days of rousing convention addresses by party grandees and rising stars.
Romney lies neck-and-neck with Obama in national polls 10 weeks before an election that should be his for the taking, given the sour economy and an unemployment rate that is lingering stubbornly above eight percent.
The Republican hopeful flew to Tampa two days early to attend an opening night of speeches headlined by his wife Ann's attempt to capture the lighter side of a candidate who has struggled to connect on a human level with many voters.
Speaking to Americans "from my heart about our hearts," the would-be first lady will tell a packed convention center that her loving husband is "the man America needs," according to speech excerpts.
Romney's decision to fly to Florida two days earlier than expected to hear the speech fueled speculation that he might take to the podium and kiss Ann afterwards in a headline moment imitating Al Gore and wife Tipper in 2000.
Ann Romney was to use the biggest speech of her life to invite Americans into her 43-year marriage to see how her husband's commitment to family, hard work and good deeds can help lead the country to a better place.
"Tonight I want to talk to you about love," she will say. The Romney campaign has been eager to promote the gregarious, 63-year-old Ann as a conveyer of the family story, a mission intended to humanize a candidate who trails Obama badly in terms of likability and can come across as stiff and aloof.
Charismatic New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will follow Mrs Romney, giving the night's keynote address and no doubt firing up the crowd of 20,000 with an impassioned tear-down of Obama and a ringing endorsement of Romney.
The convention kicked off earlier Tuesday with the usual blend of political theater and razzmatazz despite the hurricane bearing down on New Orleans that derailed Monday's opening and still threatens to cast a pall over proceedings.
The storm presents the candidate with a tricky challenge as he must tread a fine line between driving home his political message and showing sensitivity to voters in harm's way.
Many Americans do not tune in until the convention season starts - Obama and the Democrats hold theirs next week in Charlotte, North Carolina - so Tampa provides Romney with a golden opportunity to reintroduce himself.
The run-up to the convention was marred by incendiary remarks from Todd Akin, a Republican congressman seeking a Senate seat in Missouri, who suggested women's bodies spontaneously prevent pregnancy after a "legitimate rape."
The Romney camp, which roundly condemned the remarks, is keen to get back on message, pressing the case that the successful businessman understands the economy better than Obama and knows how to get the country back on track.
"The president can smooth talk anything but I think nobody wants to listen to that anymore," Tina Gibson, a delegate from Texas wearing a star-spangled banner outfit complete with cowgirl hat, told AFP on the convention floor.
"They've no seen the results of his smooth talking from four years ago and he's still trying to do it now. The Democrats, his followers, are not as enthusiastic as they were four years ago."
Obama will break with tradition and campaign hard through his rival's event, countering Romney's bid to grab an uninterrupted chance to make his case.
Hurricane Isaac made landfall Tuesday in Louisiana and headed for New Orleans, seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the "Big Easy" and killed 1,800 people on the US Gulf Coast. - AFP