Published August 30, 2012
Mitt Romney, in his nomination acceptance speech, acknowledges the "excitement" many Obama voters felt in 2008, but he plans to argue the president has failed to live up to the hype and he will pledge to refocus on jobs -- "lots of jobs."
"If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" Romney plans to say, according to excerpts of his speech. "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
The claims follow a theme sounded the night before by running mate Paul Ryan, who in his speech described the president's former supporters as staring up at "fading Obama posters" and still looking for work.
Romney, in his early excerpts, says he'll get the economy moving.
"What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn't take a special government commission to tell us what America needs. What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs," he says. "I am running for president to help create a better future. A future where everyone who wants a job can find one."
He continues: "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise ... is to help you and your family."
Romney says he wishes Obama succeeded but "his promises gave way to disappointment and division."
"This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something," he says in the advance excerpts.
The remarks show the candidate touching on his Mormon faith and his childhood, as well as his business acumen.
The GOP nominee, in his speech, has an unmatched chance Thursday to address lingering concerns among some about a range of issues -- his conservatism, his wealth, his likability -- and to give undecided voters a reason to vote for him, not just against Obama.
"He needs to connect with people on an emotional level," Republican pollster Adam Geller said. "He does not need to bash Obama."
Geller said Romney needs an "image bump" out of the speech, which he cast as a forum to reach out and connect with people who are turned off to Obama but not quite sure whether they're "ready to hire the challenger."
Romney's had the benefit going into Thursday night of a fiery warm-up act. From New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Condoleezza Rice to running mate Paul Ryan, the speakers in Tampa have leveled pointed criticism at Obama and touted Romney's credentials to take his place.
"The American people just want to know if we're going to change horses in midstream that I'm getting on a better, wiser horse," Christie said Thursday morning at a Florida delegation breakfast. "That when we make this change that the change is not going to be for us to either stand in place or go backward, but that horse is going to move us forward."
Democrats continued to tease at Romney's perceived vulnerabilities Thursday morning, releasing a web video accusing him of seeking a "convention reinvention" and trying to "shake an Etch-a-Sketch of epic proportions." It went on to spotlight his record at private equity firm Bain Capital, his offshore accounts and other details Democrats have used to paint him as out of touch with average Americans.
Speakers at the GOP convention, most notably his wife Ann, have tried to highlight Romney's personal side. They've tried to energize voters around his candidacy -- no doubt recognizing that the Romney ticket needs to make bigger inroads with independents and former Obama supporters in order to seize the majority in November.
Romney is running as an economic Mr. Fix-It, but despite a string of dismal labor reports and forecasts, the two candidates remain knotted up in a virtual tie in most polls.
Democrats are sure to answer back next week with a fulsome celebration of Obama in Charlotte, N.C., for their convention, and Romney's address will make for the Republicans' closing words before that event.
One issue that could come up Thursday night, and which has been referenced repeatedly by other speakers, is Romney's Mormon faith.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a prominent evangelical and former presidential candidate, touched on the issue in his address Wednesday night, addressing why he as an evangelical would support someone who is not.
"I want to tell you something, of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama. And he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb, even beyond the womb," he said. "Let me say to you tonight, I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church, than I do about where he takes this country."
Huckabee, also a Fox News host, said Thursday that the speech should be aimed more at the broader American public than the party faithful in the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday night.
"He doesn't have to convince them," Huckabee said on Fox News. "He's got to convince the people on television. This is a television speech."
Further, he said, Romney needs to explain how he's going to take the country "somewhere where we want to be."
Ryan, in accepting the vice presidential nomination Wednesday night, vouched for Romney as the man for that job.
"After four years of getting the run-around, America needs a turnaround," Ryan said, "and the man for the job is Gov. Mitt Romney."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is also set to speak tonight, before Romney, as are former GOP primary foe Newt Gingrich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.