With New Jersey’s delegate vote count tonight, Mitt Romney surpassed the 1,144 votes he needed to become the 2012 Republican Party’s presidential nominee.
That moment during the roll call of states drew thunderous applause inside the Tampa Bay Forum, where the party opened its convention a day late after Hurricane Isaac passed the state yesterday on its way toward New Orleans.
Romney landed in Tampa, Florida, earlier in the day to be present for the speech of his wife, Ann Romney, later tonight. While flying into the convention city, one of Romney’s top advisers downplayed the importance of the national convention, saying he was unsure whether the gathering would prompt a surge of support for the Republican presidential candidate.
“I just think all bets are off about any past performance being a predictor of the future,” chief strategist Stuart Stevens told reporters on Romney’s campaign plane.
Ann Romney is seeking to counter her husband’s image as an aloof politician and profit-driven former private equity executive, in a convention speech that describes him as someone who has spent his life helping to “lift up others.”
“At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance has helped lift up others,” Ann Romney, 63, will say in her speech, according to excerpts released by the campaign in advance. “This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can’t be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair. This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard.”
Ann Romney also will use her speech to try to puncture a widely held view that her husband and family have a perfect life without challenge or adversity, alluding to her 14-year battle with multiple sclerosis and a 2008 breast cancer diagnosis.
“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage,’” she plans to say. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer.”
Mitt Romney, 65, will formally accept his party’s nomination in a speech Aug. 30.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who when growing up worked in his family’s bar, in a speech to the convention tonight, attacked President Barack Obama’s economic record. He said if a guy would have walked into the bar and said the private sector is “doing fine,” they would “throw him out,” referring to a comment Obama made earlier this year.
The convention proceedings got off to a rocky start when supporters of Representative Ron Paul, a Texas Republican who challenged Romney in the primary, began chanting his name when Paul arrived on the floor.
There also was some shouting over a proposed rule change related to Paul’s delegates from Maine being replaced with Romney backers.
Paul declined an invitation to address the convention after Romney’s campaign insisted on approving his remarks. His son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, is scheduled to speak tomorrow.
The conventions provide an opportunity for each party to make their case to voters who are starting to pay attention to the presidential race.
Romney’s speech later this week will present a “clear vision” of his presidency, said Stevens, laying out his argument against Obama, his reasons for running, and proposals to improve the U.S. economy.
He also plans to address foreign policy and the storm hitting the Gulf Coast in his appearance before his party’s delegates. Romney has been thinking about the speech for months, said Stevens, making notes on broad themes and consulting with advisers and friends across many industries.
Obama, campaigning today at Iowa State University in Ames, said the Republican convention “should be a pretty entertaining show.”
“What you won’t hear from them is a path forward that meets the challenge of our time,” Obama told supporters.
Democrats hold their convention starting Sept. 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina.