On Romney's day at the Republican National Convention, speech themes include 'We believe in America'
The first night of the GOP convention drew an estimated 22.3 million TV viewers, the vast majority over 55. The Nielsen ratings company said that figure was down from the 23.1 million who watched the first full night of the 2008 convention, which nominated John McCain. Nielsen said just 1.5 million of those who watched Tuesday's convention session were in the 18-34 age group.
The Republican convention's most rah-rah moments were unfolding as Hurricane Isaac, downgraded 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 for victims and offered prayers. The GOP had cut the convention's opening day in fear Isaac would strike Tampa, which was spared.
Not that Obama set politicking aside for the week, either, even as he tended to emergency management. Locked in an unpredictable race that shows no clear advantage for either man, Obama on Wednesday implored young people in a crowd of 7,500 in Charlottesville, Va., home to the University of Virginia, to register, vote and make sure their friends do as well. "I need you," he said. "America needs you to close the gap between what is and what might be."
Ryan, 42, came on board the campaign for the White House with a reputation in Washington for taking on the sacred cows in government spending, Medicare prime among them. He's also generated plenty of excitement among conservatives who have never been fully convinced that Romney is one of them. "I think he's a rock star for the Republicans," Allie Burgin, a delegate from Wynnewood, Okla., said before the speech. And that's how he was received on the stage.
"The present administration has made its choices," Ryan said, "and Mitt Romney and I have made ours. Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems. And I'm going to level with you: We don't have much time."
Ann Romney, in an interview with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee taped before Ryan's speech, said Ryan and her husband are a "dynamic duo" who complement one another: "They're both very wonky when it comes to the intricacies of the budget ... You get the two of them together and they're like two pigs in slop."
In his speech, Ryan was particularly cutting in his indictment of the president, even in a convention loaded with anti-Obama rhetoric. "Fear and division are all they've got left," he said. "It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that's left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed."
In a letter sent Thursday morning to potential Democratic donors, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Ryan's speech "represents a huge bet by the Romney campaign — they've decided that facts, truth and reality will not be a brake on their campaign message."
Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 nominee, also issued a fundraising appeal, saying Democrats need to "respond quickly and powerfully to attacks from the other side." Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said ads from outside groups attacking his military record were "burned into my memory" and that Romney has far more to spend on advertising this time.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said days earlier that the nominee would discuss his Mormon religion in his convention address as part of "what's informed his values."
Ryan, a Roman Catholic, took up the matter conspicuously, and no doubt as part of the convention's carefully crafted message.
"Mitt and I also go to different churches," he said. "But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. And I've been watching that example. The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable."
And again: "Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life."
Obama, asked in the Time interview what he admired about Romney, said the GOP nominee "seems to walk the walk and not just be talking the talk when it comes to his participation in his church."
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Indianapolis, Julie Pace in Charlottesville, Va., Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Philip Elliott, Beth Fouhy, Tamara Lush and Elizabeth Bunn in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.
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