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Onward to Romney's big night

8/30/2012

By CALVIN WOODWARD and DONNA CASSATA

By CALVIN WOODWARD and DONNA CASSATA

Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Republican Mitt Romney is stepping up for the most important speech of his life, to an audience of millions, after a rousing warm-up from a running mate who vowed the days of dodging painful budget choices will end if voters toss President Barack Obama from office.

Having grasped the nomination on his second try, after years spent cultivating this moment, Romney will use his speech tonight to introduce himself to a large portion of voters and claw for advantage in a race that could scarcely be any closer.

And there was no shortage of advice for Romney from armchair speechwriters on all sides.

Jeb Bush, the brother and son of former presidents, said it was critical for the normally reserved GOP nominee to connect with people on an emotional level -- even if he's never going to be "a new-age kind of guy."

"Where it matters is connecting with other people's concerns," Bush said in a round of morning talk show interviews. Only then, he said, will voters be ready to hear the candidate's case.

As part of his introduction, Romney appeared prepared to discuss his Mormon faith in more direct terms than usual, a direction signaled by running mate Paul Ryan on Wednesday night in several allusions to the duo's differing religions but "same moral creed."

The Wisconsin congressman, a deficit hawk who's become the party's darling since joining the ticket, offered a prime-time testimonial setting up Romney's turn on the stage in the Republican National Convention's finale.

The Obama campaign was quick to pick apart Ryan's address, releasing a new Web video with its own fact-check of what it said were inaccuracies in the congressman's criticisms of the president, and branding the GOP ticket wrong for the middle class. In the warm-up for Romney's speech, the Democrats also released a second Web video highlighting past criticisms of Romney on his record as Massachusetts governor and his budget priorities.

After a two-day campaign tour through college towns, the president himself was staying out of the spotlight today, ceding center stage to Romney.

But in an interview with Time magazine released today, Obama said he was hopeful for a more productive second term if re-elected, because "the American people will have made a decision. And, hopefully, that will impact how Republicans think about these problems."

"My expectation is that there will be some popping of the blister after this election, because it will have been such a stark choice," Obama said.

The president added he needs to do a better job of communicating his goals to the American people -- both during the campaign and what he hopes will be a future inaugural address and more State of the Union speeches. The interview was conducted last week.

If history is a guide, viewership of Romney's speech -- and Obama's address to his Democratic convention next week -- will be surpassed only by the audience for their coming debates.

The Republican convention's most rah-rah moments were unfolding as Hurricane Isaac, down to a tropical storm, inflicted floodwaters and misery in rural stretches of nearby Gulf states.

The slowly unfolding calamity went unmentioned by most key speakers Wednesday night, although a few asked for Red Cross donations to the victims and offered prayers. The GOP had cut the convention's opening day in fear Isaac would strike Tampa, which was spared.