Republicans on Tuesday nominated Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as their 2012 White House ticket and celebrated by reveling in a surprise convention appearance by their freshly minted presidential candidate to embrace his wife on the podium.
Ann Romney had just finished a speech full of frank talk “from my heart” about her “deep and abiding love for a man I met at a dance 43 years ago.”
She told the hushed crowd about “that love so deep only a mother can fathom it – the love we have for our children and our children’s children.” She spoke of how people think she and Mitt have a storybook marriage. It’s not that simple, Romney said.
“In the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once,” she said, as the crowd laughed. “And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer.”
Ann Romney has endured both.
She calmly continued her narrative. “A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage,” she said, as the crowd rose to its feet and applauded.
“I know this good and decent man for what he is – warm and loving and patient. He has tried to live his life with a set of values centered on family, faith, and love of one’s fellow man. From the time we were first married, I’ve seen him spend countless hours helping others.”
She also was vehement that her husband knows how to succeed. "No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live," Ann Romney said. "It’s true that Mitt has been successful at each new challenge he has taken on. It amazes me to see his history of success actually being attacked."
She added, "And let’s be honest. If the last four years had been more successful, do we really think there would be this attack on Mitt Romney’s success? Of course not."
When she was done, the loudspeakers boomed the Temptations’ “My Girl,” and Mitt Romney walked out from the wings, hugged and kissed his wife and waved to the crowd.
She was followed by keynote speaker Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who spoke of his family’s immigrant roots and his vision for this country.
“We are the great-grandchildren of men and women who broke their backs in the name of American ingenuity; the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation; the sons and daughters of immigrants; the brothers and sisters of everyday heroes,” he said.
The Democrats’ plan, Christie charged, is to “whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power when they fall.”
His address ended the first major day of the convention, a nine-hour affair stuffed with speeches that had been postponed from Monday, when Tropical Storm Isaac – now Hurricane Isaac – was threatening the region.
The convention delegates, sensing a good chance of defeating President Barack Obama, were eager to celebrate.
The triumph of Romney, 65, is the latest chapter in his five-year quest for the presidency, a journey that’s rarely been smooth. Even Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor, once viewed as a moderate eager to find common ground with Democrats, faced questions from the rank and file about his loyalty to the conservative views he’s touted during his White House bid. And the convention armed him with an unusually conservative platform that has already stirred bitter debate.
Picking Ryan, 42, the Wisconsin congressman and House Budget Committee chairman, has helped immensely, as Romney and Ryan easily won majorities of the 2,286 delegates.
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, who served as President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff, formally nominated Romney. His state, which his son once represented in the U.S. Senate, is considered a swing state in November.
“We’re saddled with a failed presidency with an incumbent president who has not led,” Sununu told a crowd that seemed more absorbed in conversation. He got little applause.
Sununu would pause, waiting for cheers that rarely came, with lines like, “There are many reasons America needs Mitt Romney at the helm. Barack Obama can’t figure out what makes the private sector work.”
The mood Tuesday was sometimes businesslike, sometimes festive.
Before Ann Romney and Christie spoke, the speech that most got the crowd on its feet came from Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman from Alabama.
“There are Americans who voted for the president, but who are searching right now, because they know that their votes didn’t build the country they wanted,” Davis said. “To those Democrats and independents whose minds are open to argument: listen closely to the Democratic Party that will gather in Charlotte and ask yourself if you ever hear your voice in the clamor.”
Throughout the day and evening, delegates heard dozens of speeches sounding the same message and quietly adopted a party platform that Democrats are eager to attack.
That platform, when combined with the one Democrats are expected to adopt next week at their convention, will provide voters with the starkest ideological choice they’ve had in a generation. A new Pew Research Center survey found more people were interested in the Republican Party platform than in Romney’s Thursday night acceptance speech.
Some party leaders are concerned.
“If it was up to me, I’d put the platform on one sheet of paper. Have you ever met anyone who read it?” asked House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, the nation’s highest-ranking Republican, at a meeting with reporters. “I would put it on one page so that the American people would read it. They might.”
Democrats are focused, particularly on the section on abortion. “We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it,” the platform says.
Romney has said he backs abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the life of the woman is threatened.
Some delegates worried that the plank, which Democrats have been aggressively criticizing, could cause trouble throughout the fall.
“It already has made it harder for us, and will until people wake up and stop bringing this up every four years,” said Frank Simpson of Cumming, Ga., who runs a cheese company.
But Bill Drout, a Spring, Texas, software consultant, argued that voters would appreciate the party’s stand on principle.
“I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of the crime of rape,” Drout said. “We should make the penalties more serious. But either you believe life in life or you don’t.”
Bonnie Hersman figured that the platform’s issues will be overwhelmed by less tangible factors. “West Virginia voters go with their hearts in a presidential election, and they pick who moves them,” she said.
Romney has never been a big favorite with conservatives, but many delegates said the addition of Ryan gave them new energy.
“I’m a lot more enthusiastic now that he’s chosen Paul Ryan. Ryan knows the language of conservatives,” said Jorge Landiver, an internet company owner from Arlington, Texas.
Democrats remained active during the Republican convention. Obama kicked off a two-day tour of college campuses Tuesday, his campaign downplaying questions about the propriety of campaigning during his opponent’s convention – and with a storm nearing the Gulf Coast.
Before he left for the trip, Obama delivered brief remarks at the White House, telling residents in the Gulf to heed the warnings of local emergency officials. And he opened his remarks at Iowa State University by noting that it was “important to say that our thoughts are with our fellow Americans down on the Gulf.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed a question of whether the image of campaigning during a storm was bad, saying, “The president is president every day,” and noting that he’d be getting briefings on the status of the storm and the federal response throughout the trip.
Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.