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Romney coronation augurs election nail-biter

Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination to run as the party's 2012 presidential candidate against US President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI

TAMPA, Florida: The energetic convention that crowned Mitt Romney Republican presidential nominee injected fresh momentum into his bid, starting the gun on 10 weeks of hectic campaigning and a nail-biting election.

There were no major hiccups during three nights of political razzle-dazzle that had many strong points, including a bold attempt by his wife Ann to show his more human qualities and a consummate performance from running-mate Paul Ryan.

After a barnstorming introduction from rising Hispanic star Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Romney produced a steady if not spectacular speech that nonetheless presented him with a prime-time pitch for his jobs and economy message.

The convention focused on a carefully choreographed attempt to rebrand the candidate's awkward image, using Olympians to remind American voters that the former Massachusetts saved the 2002 Winter Olympics from financial ruin, and even members of his Mormon church to humanize him.

But University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin told AFP that the makeover may not have entirely succeeded.

"I think it is asking a lot of a single convention to completely change the image of any candidate, especially at the end of a long primary season and, in Romney's case, a presidential run four years ago," Franklin said.

"I believe the convention may get some voters at least to look on Romney in a slightly different way in terms of personal appeal, but it was a very hard goal to achieve, to fundamentally change the way voters see him."

Candidates typically get around a five percent poll bump from their nominating conventions, but experts did not expect such a big move from either Romney or Democratic President Barack Obama this time around.

"What's difficult for Romney is simply the fact that the Democratic convention picks up in just four days so there's not very much time for the Republican message to stand alone before the Democrats get the last word," Franklin said.

After trailing for months, the multimillionaire former venture capitalist has recently drawn even in national polls with Obama, an incumbent saddled with a sluggish US economy and stubbornly high unemployment.

Romney has touted his business acumen, arguing that he has the skills necessary to steer America back to prosperity, but he trails Obama badly in terms of likability and can come across as stiff, awkward and out of touch.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll carried out ahead of the convention found that just 40 percent of Americans viewed Romney "favorably overall" while 51 percent view him as unfavorable.

That's considerably worse than Obama, who enjoys a 50-47 percent rating, and Romney's are the lowest favorability ratings of any major party nominee at the time of the convention since at least 1984, the pollsters said.

"The Romney convention speeches show that the campaign believes the theme is in fact the weakness of the Obama administration and they're ready to pick that battle up," said Franklin, the co-founder of Pollster.com.

"I think we have the makings in the Romney theme tonight, the substance, of two months of hard-fought campaigning."

Ryan definitely energized Romney's White House bid on Wednesday as he took the baton of vice presidential nominee with a scathing take-down of Obama's economic record that was particularly well-received by the Republican faithful.

The Wisconsin congressman challenged Obama head-on about the serious issues facing America, curbing the deficit and restoring growth, although the media's initially glowing report card was later tarred as fact-checking revealed a few questions of accuracy.

 

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