Mitt Romney readies speech of a lifetime

Mitt Romney is preparing one of the most important speeches of his career for tonight's Republican National Convention. His talk is expected to last 40 minutes and draw an audience of 40 million viewers.

Republican presidential nominee must reach undecided U.S. voters

Judy Griffin believes America is going down a troubling path because of President Barack Obama.

Her straw beach hat tilting under the weight of all the pins, buttons and badges she’s collected from other guests at the Republican National Convention, Griffin, a Georgia delegate and committed Mitt Romney supporter, blames the president and his administration for making people "envious of the men and women who have succeeded in America."

"I don’t mind millionaires. I love them because they make jobs for other people," Griffin said.   "The Constitution doesn’t say that rich people are supposed to pay for everybody else."

If only Mitt Romney could clone Judy Griffin.

Romney, who accepts the Republican party’s official nomination tonight, will finally get his chance on the biggest platform yet to make his case to the American people that his business expertise makes him a better choice than Obama to steward the country’s economic recovery.

And if along the way he convinces many of them he’s not a robotic, out-of-touch, corporate-raiding plutocrat, as the Democrats have gleefully painted him as during the summer, all the better.

While doing that, Romney, a former moderate Massachusetts governor who veered to the right in this year’s presidential primaries on issues such as immigration, gay rights, abortion and health care, also has to erase any doubts among his ever-reluctant conservative base over whether he’s really one of them.

With a lower turnout predicted in November’s election, parties must place heavier importance on getting out the base to vote, said Michael Traugott, a political scientist at the University of Michigan.

"He has to make an appeal in his speech to the conservative base of the Republican party to demonstrate he is really their candidate," Traugott said. "So that means he’s really not going to have a lot of room to make appeals to independents."

At the same time, Romney must play down the social issues to avoid stirring up connections with the controversy over Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican Senate candidate who suggested victims of "legitimate rape" are less likely to become pregnant, which Traugott said has "sidetracked" the Republicans' strategic agenda in recent weeks.

Fundraising advantage

Once he becomes the nominee and is unshackled from campaign spending laws, Romney will be able to utilize his fundraising advantage over Obama for the first time in the campaign, Traugott said.

"He has taken a fairly good beating in paid media because the Obama campaign has had a chance to characterize him before the general election," he said. "So the convention is important for him to regain control of his own image."

In his acceptance speech, Romney will have to at least generate a comparable level of enthusiasm as his running mate, Paul Ryan, who pledged to the convention crowd that a Romney-Ryan administration "will not duck the tough issues."

"We will lead," the 41-year-old Wisconsin congressman told a cheering convention crowd.

Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., during his acceptance speech. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Ryan, whose once-controversial budget plans have been brought into the mainstream with his selection as Romney’s running mate, used his convention debut to blast the Obama administration’s record on the federal stimulus program, Medicare and unemployment.

"I have never seen opponents so silent about their record and so desperate to keep their power," Ryan said. "They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left."

Richard Pitts, a tea party member from The Villages — a central Florida retirement community comprising more than 50,000 mainly Republican voters — who supported Herman Cain in the primaries, said Romney’s pick of Ryan made a big difference on his choice to back Romney in the end.

"We want to hear the conservative voice," Pitts, a retired water company manager originally from Long Island, told "At first, no, I wasn’t convinced by Mitt, but you have to go with the person who can beat the guy in office now because he’s ruining the country.

"I want to hear what we can do to get us back in the black instead of the red."

Rice rouses crowd

Wednesday also saw strong speeches from former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, whose names had both been mentioned as possible Romney running mates.


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Rice said Romney and Ryan understood America’s need to lead internationally as a "beacon of prosperity." She also recalled growing up pre-civil-rights-era Alabama, and how parents taught her she could be president "if she wanted to be" and called failing public schools in America "the civil rights issue of our day."

Romney, who is expected to expand on his Mormon faith during his address, saw his religion defended by an unlikely source Wednesday — Mike Huckabee, his rival in 2008 and an evangelical Christian leader who criticized Mormonism during the race, only to apologize.

Obama, Huckabee said in his convention speech, was the only "self-professed evangelical" in the race, but the president believes "that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb."

"I care far less about where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than about where he takes this country," Huckabee said.