Newt and Callista Gingrich
TAMPA, Fla. — Following a video tribute to President Ronald Reagan, Callista and Newt Gingrich kicked off the final night of the Republican National Convention Thursday by saying this year's election is as important as the choice America made in 1980.
President Barack Obama has taken America down a path that has weakened America's confidence in itself, Newt Gingrich said, while the contrasting approach Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would take has deep roots in Reagan's approach to restoring the economy, reviving the American spirit and defeating totalitarianism.
Obama's presidency has been a direct repudiation of Reagan's values, Gingrich said.
"Obama's proud of what he's done and of his politically motivated partisanship, but he should be ashamed of putting politics before people," he said.
With the election coming nearer each day, Newt and Callista encouraged Americans to follow the tradition of Ronald Reagan and come together.
"President Reagan said there is no substitute for victory, and this November we cannot settle for anything less," Gingrich said. "This is the most critical election of our lifetime."
Craig Romney, the youngest of the five Romney sons, stepped into the spotlight at the Republican National Convention Thursday night by speaking directly to Hispanic voters.
Romney's speech came as a followup to a video clip where Hispanic Republican leaders from across the country spoke to voters about the GOP's core values and compared them to the core values of Hispanics.
While speaking in Spanish, Romney said that he spent two years living and working in Chile, referencing his LDS mission to the country, and that the experience taught him about how Hispanics have contributed to the diverse richness of the United States.
"My father — Mitt Romney — is a family man," Romney said in Spanish. "He is a great husband, father and grandfather. He knows how to unite our country and appreciates that we are a nation of immigrants, united in the desire to achieve the American dream."
It's easy to forget that the Romney family's story begins with two immigrants, Romney said, but his grandfathers came to the U.S. and through hard work and perseverance, lived the American dream. The GOP, he said, is dedicated to giving that dream to all Americans.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Although the official transcript of Bush's remarks focused on education, he took a moment at the start of his speech to offer up a strong rebuke of President Obama and a defense of his brother, former President George W. Bush.
"My brother is a man of courage, honor and dignity who kept the country safe during extremely challenging times," Bush said, and it is time for Obama to stop blaming George for Obama's failed policies.
"You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not worked," Bush said. "In your fourth year of your presidency, a real leader would have accepted responsibility for his policies and you haven't done it."
Returning to his prepared remarks, Bush said that the failure of schools to educate children in America today is the great moral and economic issue of our time.
"We say that every child in America has an equal opportunity," Bush said. "Tell that to a kid in whose classroom learning isn't respected. Tell that to a parent stuck in a school where there is no leadership. Tell that to a young, talented teacher who just got laid off because she didn't have tenure. The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn't exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all."
America can meet this challenge, though, Bush said. He cited the need for school reforms and higher standards, great teachers and school choice, and encouraged people to step up and take on school unions who stand in the way of improvements.
"Fact is, this election is not about just one office," Bush said. "It is about one nation. If we want to continue to be the greatest nation on the planet, we must give our kids what we promise them: An equal opportunity. That starts in the classroom. It starts in our communities. It starts where you live."
Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples
Stemberg, who went to Mitt Romney and pitched the idea for an office supply store that became Staples, said that creating his company was the realization of a dream, and it dismays him to see the White House demonize Bain Capital, the private equity industry and Mitt Romney.
Over and over again, Stemberg said, he hears fiction, half-truths and downright lies from the Obama administration, and he said you have to ask yourself why an administration that can't create jobs would demonize someone who did.
"I've got a theory," Stemberg said. "I think when it comes to jobs, new businesses and economic growth, they just don't get it."
"They've got a job council that never meets, a Democratic Senate that doesn't act, a president who doesn't get it and a vice president who just can't stop talking. They just don't get it," Stemberg said. "They don't get it because they don't believe in the spirit of the entrepreneur."
In contrast, he said, "My friend Mitt Romney gets it."
Jane Edmonds, former Massachusetts Secretary of Workforce
Edmonds, a Liberal Democrat who worked with Mitt Romney as a member of his Cabinet when he was Governor of Massachusetts, spoke at the Republican National Convention, saying Romney is an authentic leader.
Romney struck her in their first meeting as honest, transparent and inclusive, Edmonds said, and she knew that in that meeting she wanted to be around him and in an environment where her passions could be channeled toward the public good.
"My initial size-up of the man held true during the four years I served in his cabinet," Edmonds said. "I saw him up close and personal many times, and he always drove us in his administration to make government better for the people."
Romney is an "amazing" steward and leader, Edmonds said, and someone who is open to good ideas — even if they come from a Liberal Democrat.
"As a great leader he brought out the best in me and I know as president he will bring out the best in our country," she said.