Mitt Romney accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination tonight, capping a six-year quest and setting up a general election showdown with President Barack Obama.
In a speech at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Florida, Romney addressed a crowd of delegates and party officials and sought to zero in on his economic message and broaden his appeal to independent voters who have been unsure whether he could relate to their needs. He said the excitement among Americans when Obama won the presidency almost four years ago has given way to “disappointment and division.”
“Tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?” he said. “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 “hope and change” Obama promised and Americans voted for was supposed to usher in a time when the nation would pay down debt, families could get ahead and companies would add workers, Romney said.
“I wish president Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed,” Romney said. “Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us.”
What the nation needs “is not complicated or profound,” he said. “It doesn’t take a special government commission to tell us what America needs. What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.”
Playing off a line from a speech Obama gave during his 2008 campaign, Romney said: “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, 65, was under pressure in his speech to show undecided voters more personality and emotion and connect with the public, even as fiscal conservatives in his own party say he must better define his plans for reining in the federal budget deficit and improving the economy.
Romney spoke of his parents and the family he and his wife have sought to raise.
“Unconditional love is a gift that Ann and I have tried to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren,” he said. “All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers.”
In an effort to close the gender gap -- Obama’s lead over him among female votes in polls -- Romney talked of the women he has worked with and relied on over the course of his career.
“As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies,” he said.
Romney, who failed in his bid for the party’s 2008 nomination, was more open about his Mormon faith.
He said that early in his marriage, he and his wife “found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church. When we were new to the community it was welcoming and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church.”
Before Romney took the stage, members of his church told the convention how Romney helped support them during trying times. As a Mormon bishop, Romney counseled many congregants on their toughest decisions, from weighing whether to have an abortion to counseling parents with dying children.
Part of tonight’s agenda spotlighted 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. Romney broached Bain in his speech as well.
“That business we started with 10 people has now grown into a great American success story,” he said. “Some of the companies we helped start are names you know. An office supply company called Staples -- where I’m pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons.”
Obama and allied political action committees have attacked Romney over his work at Bain, linking him to job cuts and outsourcing by companies that the firm invested in.