Romney ready to claim GOP prize; wife Ann to argue case for Mitt's economic credentials

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 11:25 a.m. MDT

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, right, stands on the main stage in the Tampa Tribune Forum before the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Poised at last to claim the prize he's been chasing for years, Mitt Romney barreled into his convention city Tuesday as Republicans worked to showcase him at the Republican National Convention as a man who understands everyday Americans and a leader who can fix the economy.

Ann Romney, the woman who knows him best, said she was tickled that her husband would be on hand for her evening speech to the convention. And tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was ready to make the case in his keynote address for Romney as the right leader to get the economy moving.

"It's going to be fun for him to be there," Mrs. Romney told reporters before touching down in Tampa, where she headed to the convention hall for a microphone check, practicing with a few lines from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Running mate Paul Ryan arrived in the convention city, too, still tweaking the speech he'll deliver Wednesday.

But with New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast waiting fearfully to see where Hurricane Isaac makes landfall, politics became an awkward enterprise and no one knows what sort of party the GOP gathering will turn out to be.

After a one-day weather delay, the convention proceeds according to its latest script: delivering Romney the presidential nomination he fought years to achieve, calling the party to unify around him and setting the stage for the final stretch of the hotly contested campaign to unseat President Barack Obama.

Obama, not one to cede the spotlight, tended to presidential business, urging Gulf Coast residents to prepare for the approaching storm. And then he headed out on a three-state campaign trip focused on winning over college students.

Romney has finalized his own Thursday convention speech, and it will be "a clear vision of a Romney presidency and very much from his heart about America and why he wants to be president and what his presidency would be like," said senior aide Stuart Stevens.

Christie, ready for his keynote address, said that for those Americans who aren't yet sold on Romney, "you start turning it around tonight."

In a round of morning talk-show appearances, Christie said Ann Romney would humanize her husband for the nation, and that his own speech would make the case for Romney's economic credentials. But ultimately, Christie said, it will up to Romney himself "to let the American people see who he is."

Meeting with Michigan delegates, Christie insisted that an effective president trumps likability.

"We need somebody who cares more about getting the job done than they care about being temporarily popular with any particular segment of our country," Christie said.

Christie has his own fan club.

"I just love him," said Sandy Barber, a delegate from rural northwest Ohio. "He's plain-talking. He's himself. He's someone who lets his personality come through."

Romney, Barber allowed, "is a different kind of personality. His personality exudes leadership."

Eager to counter Romney's economic pitch to middle-class voters, a super PAC supporting Obama unveiled an ad featuring a small business owner who criticized the candidate's record on job growth as Massachusetts governor.

Part of the Tampa tableau: a slew of GOP presidential also-rans: Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain posed for a photo after running into each other at the convention center. Cain joked that the caption could be: "We ain't mad. We support Mitt and Ryan." Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were on hand too, both with speaking slots.

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