Evan Vucci, Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — With the Republican National Convention at last in full-throated roar, nominee Mitt Romney and his team reached out Wednesday to critical voting groups — veterans, Hispanics and women — while gleefully mocking the man he is out to defeat in November.
The GOP nominee ducked out of his own convention in Tampa to tell the American Legion Convention in Indianapolis that a Romney administration would do better by a military threatened with "reckless" defense cuts and by veterans hungry for jobs.
"This president's biggest failure is that he's not delivered those jobs," Romney said. "As president, I will get America to work again."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a top Hispanic voice in the GOP, made the rounds of morning talk shows to defend the GOP nominee's policies. And Ann Romney and Janna Ryan, the wife of Romney's running mate, teamed up to headline a "Women for Romney" fundraiser.
At the women's event, Mrs. Romney offered her husband as "the one person who is going to turn this country around," and promised that her husband would keep in mind the needs of women and families, if elected. Later, she attended a Latino Coalition lunch, where son Craig addressed guests in Spanish, and described his father as "a man you can trust."
Mrs. Romney told the Latino crowd that Democrats try to make it look like Republicans "don't care about this community. That's not true. We very much care about this community."
Latinos, she said, "are mistaken if they think they are going to be better off" if President Barack Obama wins re-election, she said.
The politics played out as Hurricane Isaac blew ashore on the Gulf Coast, weakening to a tropical storm by afternoon. Officials in Louisiana said that New Orleans' flood protection system was holding up as Isaac moved through the area.
Romney opened his remarks to the veterans by saying that while it appeared Isaac would not inflict the kind of damage Hurricane Katrina caused seven years ago, "this must be a heavy burden."
"Our country must do all we can to help them recover," he said.
Obama, campaigning before a college crowd in Charlottesville, Va., pledged that the government was "doing every single thing we need to do to make sure the folks down there are taken care of."
The president declared himself unimpressed with the GOP show unfolding in Tampa.
"You can listen very carefully, very hard, and you won't hear them offer a clear serious path forward," he said.
The main draw for Wednesday night's convention session is vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman and author of a tough budget that remakes the way the government spends money.
"I think people are going to like what they see because we are offering specific, bold solutions to get people back to work, to get this country back on the right track," Ryan said in a taped interview with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.
Ryan tested the microphones in the convention hall at midday as his children had fun at the podium.
Rubio, interviewed on "CBS This Morning," held out Ryan as a serious policy thinker who's "going to have a bunch of new fans across this country" after he speaks.
But Obama's re-election campaign released an online video casting Ryan, who is hugely popular with conservatives, as a politician from a "bygone era" whose budget proposals threaten Medicare and would gut funding for Planned Parenthood.
A poll by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post found Americans deeply divided about Ryan, whom they described as conservative, intelligent, fake, phony.
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