TAMPA, Florida: Republicans overwhelmingly nominated Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan to challenge President Barack Obama, painting a gauzy portrait of their candidate, playing to the deep economic anxiety of U.S. voters and promising to end what they called Obama’s “era of absentee leadership.”
With only fleeting signs of the concerns many expressed about Romney’s conservative credentials, delegates rocked the convention hall Tuesday night with enthusiasm for the multimillionaire former Massachusetts governor, ending his yearlong quest for the party’s top honor.
The Republican festival played out against a backdrop of polling that shows the race a dead even.
Voters say they trust Romney more on economic issues but find Obama the more likable candidate.
Keynote speaker Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, propelled Romney toward the Nov. 6 election with a characteristically blunt message.
“It’s time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House,” Christie thundered. “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private-sector jobs again in America.”
Republican exuberance was tempered as Hurricane Isaac hit the southern Louisiana coast just as the evening festivities began, driving a wall of water nearly 3 meters high inland before heading on to New Orleans.
Proceedings were also marred Tuesday when two attendees were ejected from the convention after they threw nuts at a black CNN camerawoman and said “this is how we feed animals,” the network reported, and the convention confirmed the incident in a statement late Tuesday.
“Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated,” organizers said.
But the convention continued as planned. The first full day built toward a crescendo – Ann Romney brought a message aimed toward women voters, speaking lovingly of the candidate’s virtues as husband and father.
Her mission was to humanize Romney, who has been painted by the Obama campaign as out of touch with the difficult lives of average Americans.
She lovingly talked of her 43-year marriage, noting her experiences battling muscular sclerosis and cancer.
She spoke about the struggles of working families: “If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It’s how it is, isn’t it? It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right.”
Her mission was clear: to soften the image of a man who remains a mystery to most Americans and who consistently lags behind Obama among women voters in polls.
In the Obama-Romney contest, voters face a clash of ideologies.
Romney, more conservative on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, favors cutting taxes, reining in government regulations and repealing Obama’s signature health care overhaul – even though it was modeled after one of his own programs as governor.
Obama is liberal on social issues, wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and sees government as a potential force for good.
In advance of Ryan’s speech to the convention Wednesday, the Obama campaign released a video targeting him as a politician from a “bygone era.”
The video criticizes Ryan for being the architect of a budget that would overhaul the health care system for seniors and for seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, a national non-governmental organization that provides health care to poor women and counsels those seeking abortions.