Published August 31, 2012
Mitt Romney reintroduced himself to the country Thursday night in Tampa, delivering a deeply personal nomination acceptance address that balanced pledges to fix the economy and critiques of President Obama with stories about his own life and where he comes from.
The Republican presidential nominee made a clear effort on the closing night of the GOP national convention to let voters know a little more about Romney the man -- not just Romney the businessman or former governor. He flashed his humorous side, at one moment an emotional side, as he told the story of his parents, his children, his wife and his early days in business.
And before the balloons and confetti rained down, he drew the address back to the message that has driven his campaign: Obama has not lived up to the lofty promise of his 2008 run, he said, and does not have what it takes to fix the economy.
“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,” Romney said. “What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.”
Romney called on voters to put the “disappointment” and the “divisiveness” of the last four years behind them, and “turn the page” with him.
“This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault. … But this president cannot tell us that you’re better off today than when he took office,” Romney said. “Now is the time to restore the promise of America.”
Romney tried to cast himself as the more level-headed, and less lofty, choice.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney said. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Before he dove into the critiques against the current Oval Office occupant, Romney appeared to answer calls from some in the GOP that he tell America more about his personal story. He said he understands people “need to know more about me” to make a choice in November.
The nominee appeared to get emotional when he told a story about how his dad used to give his mother a rose every day – and that she knew something was wrong on the day he died because there was no rose.
Going off script, Romney said: “Don’t you wish she could have been here at this convention?”
The nominee showed a light-hearted side, at one point ribbing running mate Paul Ryan for teasing him over his musical preferences a night earlier.
“Paul,” he said, “I still like the playlist on my iPod better than yours.”
Romney touched on his Mormon faith, as other speakers have this week. And he spoke directly to women in the audience, and watching on TV, highlighting the female officials who were speaking at the convention and who had served in his administration in Massachusetts. It was not lost on the crowd. Kansas delegate Chad Bettes said the importance of women, particularly in the workforce, “was a huge theme.” Bettes said Romney’s record “has proven that he values women.”
Romney, though, returned to the dominant message that the “excitement” of Obama’s election has subsided, replaced by doubt and uncertainty about the economy and the federal budget.
“If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, you should feel that way now that he’s President Obama,” Romney said. “You know, there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you’ve had was the day you voted for him.”
Romney pointed to the president’s resume as the problem. “He had almost no experience working in a business,” he said. “Jobs to him are about government.”
Romney said he wished Obama had succeeded, “because I want America to succeed.”
“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. And with your help we will do something,” Romney said.
The delegates pouring out into the halls after the speech reacted with satisfaction. Mary Ann Riley, an alternate delegate from South Carolina, used a term not often applied to the reserved candidate: “He had fire in the belly,” she said.
The address was to serve as Republicans’ closing argument before Democrats fire back with their rebuttal at the convention next week in Charlotte, N.C.
One senior Obama campaign official told Fox News, in response to the Romney speech: "There was no big idea here," adding that Romney "recycled widely debunked attacks.”
The Romney campaign’s attention will immediately pivot to countering the message out of North Carolina, as the Obama campaign has tried to draw attention away from Republicans’ gala this week in Tampa.
The lead-up to Romney’s speech Thursday was made up of speeches, videos and tributes aimed at filling out the Mitt Romney story, and personalizing the candidate. One couple, in a touching story, told of how Romney helped draft a will for their terminally ill son so he could pass down his treasured belongings to his friends and brother. Olympians from the 2002 Salt Lake City games which Romney led later took the stage to vouch for the nominee.
Other segments of the program highlighted his record at Bain Capital, stressing the jobs created via the private equity firm in a bid to counter Democratic ads that highlight Bain-tied businesses that failed.
The one deviation from the theme came toward the end, when Clint Eastwood strolled on stage – proving true the rumors he was the convention’s “surprise” speaker – and engaged in a wicked debate with an empty chair that was supposed to represent Obama.
He concluded: “When somebody does not do the job, we gotta let ‘em go.”
Romney, like many speakers at the convention, was interrupted by cheers of “USA.” The biggest breakout came when he criticized Obama’s foreign policy.
“I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began his presidency with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators,” he said, before having to pause for the chant. Romney went on to give Obama credit for the raid that killed Usama bin Laden, but he said the country is “less secure” because the administration has “failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat.”
The speech capped with confidence an unusual convention that got off to a rocky and uncertain start, as Tropical Storm Isaac barreled toward the Gulf coast and not only delayed the start by a day but kept several high-profile southern speakers in their home states dealing with the storm.
But after the bad weather largely skirted Tampa, Republicans kicked off the convention with a taut succession of hard-hitting speeches. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivered a fiery keynote Tuesday, with other speakers ranging from Ann Romney to Paul Ryan to Marco Rubio trumpeting Romney’s leadership and challenging Obama’s – all the while warming up the stage for Romney’s nomination acceptance.
The Democratic National Convention will get under way next week, with a Labor Day event set for Monday and the formal program starting Tuesday.
FoxNews.com’s Cristina Corbin and Fox News’ James Rosen contributed to this report.