After spending years chasing the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney is preparing for the biggest speech of his political career, an address that aims to give voters a more personal look at him.
As he readied his remarks at the Republican National Convention tonight in Tampa, Florida, Romney spent the morning thanking top donors, greeting family members and getting advice. He also toured the convention stage in the afternoon, posing with aides for photos and adjusting the teleprompters,
Former Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush urged Romney to connect emotionally with voters and “show his heart.”
“That’s been hard for a guy who’s been brought up, trained, lived his life in a way of great discipline and reserve,” Bush said at a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast this morning. “By the way, it’s not a bad thing to be reserved and humble and charitable and disciplined and hard-working. He’s going to have to find a, you know, Romneyesque way of showing who he is.”
Romney is under pressure to show undecided voters more personality and emotion even as fiscal conservatives in his own party say he must more clearly define his plans for reining in the federal budget deficit and improving the economy.
Vision and Attack
Romney plans to balance his biography with his vision for the country and an attack on the Obama administration, said Eric Fehrnstrom, a top campaign strategist. He also plans to talk about his father, George, a former auto company executive and governor of Michigan, Fehrnstrom said.
“One thing we know about Mitt Romney is that he always rises to the occasion,” Fehrnstrom said. “This is the biggest speech of his political career and I have no doubt that he will deliver the best speech of his political career.”
The final night of the party’s three-day gathering will focus on telling Romney’s “personal story,” campaign adviser Russ Schriefer told reporters on a conference call.
Romney, who failed in his bid for his party’s 2008 nomination, will be more open about his Mormon faith than he has been previously, according to aides.
“This is a speech where he’s going to talk about what’s informed his values, what’s informed his outlook,” Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told reporters on his campaign plane yesterday. “Of course, his faith is an important part of that.”
Before he speaks, members of his church are to tell the convention how Romney helped support them during some of the most trying moments of their lives. As a Mormon bishop, Romney counseled many on his congregants of their toughest decisions, from weighing whether to have an abortion to counseling parents with dying children.
At a lunch today with 800 top donors in nearby St. Petersburg, Romney showed his appreciation for the hundreds of millions they’ve raised for his candidacy.
“I owe so much to all of you for helping make our campaign so successful,” he told fundraisers dining on roast beef.
The lunch was among perks offered to top contributors during the convention. Donors received tote bags embossed with a special campaign logo, were ushered to the convention podium for photos and given private briefings from party strategists.
Earlier today, about 120 Romney relatives attending the convention held a family reunion, with the candidate and his wife, Ann, posing for pictures.
“It’s like going to your own funeral,” Ann Romney told donors this morning. “Everyone that has ever been associated with you, that has ever known you in your life, you see. They’re all there.”
Convention speeches usually don’t decide the outcome of the race, said Tony Fratto, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush -- though he said the addresses were seen as pivotal to wins by Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, in 1988 and President Bill Clinton in 1992.
“This is a self-promotional business we’re in,” Fratto said. “You need to sell yourself, your character, your ideas, your confidence to voters.”
Part of tonight’s agenda will spotlight Romney’s career in the private sector, including his time as head of Boston-based private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, with a film about Indiana- based Steel Dynamics, a Bain investment.
Working at Bain
President Barack Obama and allied political action committees have attacked Romney over his work at Bain, linking him to job layoffs and outsourcing by companies that the Boston- based private-equity firm invested in.
“We don’t need a president who wants to ship more jobs overseas,” Obama said last month to about 1,200 supporters in Cincinnati.
Romney’s campaign unveiled a new website today, SterlingBusinessCareer.com, designed to paint a positive picture of his business experience. The site features testimonials from former executives of Staples Inc., Steel Dynamics Inc., and Brookstone Inc., among other companies.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who will introduce Romney, said he wants to hear the nominee discuss “what role should government play in America? What role should government play in our economy?”
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