TAMPA – Mitt Romney will accept his party’s presidential nomination on Thursday night, capping a six year quest as he seeks to reintroduce himself the country and convince voters to reject President Obama’s vision for the country and adopt his own.
With tens of millions of viewers, Romney will attempt to paint a fuller portrait of himself and recalibrate the image that his political opponents have spent the past year creating, of a wealthy, out-of-touch, opportunistic politician.
Romney will also attempt to criticize the current president while outlining a hopeful vision for the country, as the abbreviated three-day Republican convention comes to a close and the Democrats plan to step into the spotlight next week.
“Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us,” Romney plans to say. “To put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations. To forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be. Now is the time to restore the Promise of America.”
Attempting to return his campaign to the central theme he launched it on 15 months ago in a field in New Hampshire, he also highlights the economy in a pointed way.
“What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn’t take a special government commission to tell us what America needs,” he adds. “What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.”
Romney’s campaign is planning to use a series of surrogates to highlight various components of his life, his faith, and his business career. The evening will likely provide a more public presentation of Romney’s Mormon faith than he has previously allowed.
In the excerpts released by his campaign, he doesn’t mention the word “Mormon” even as he recalls moving to Massachusetts without a network of friends or family, and discovering one with his church.
“When we were new to the community it was welcoming and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church,” he said. “We had remarkably vibrant and diverse congregations of all walks of life and many who were new to America. We prayed together, our kids played together and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways.”
Romney will also launch into a defense of his business career, during which, in some cases, companies grew and jobs were created while in others factories were closed and workers laid off. Romney’s campaign on Thursday unveiled a new website – SterlingBusinessCareer.com – that is aimed at responding to the criticism of his time at Bain Capital.
“When I was 37, I helped start a small company,” he says, without mentioning that the small company – Bain Capital – was part of a much wider one, Bain & Co. “My partners and I had been working for a company that was in the business of helping other businesses.”
“So some of us had this idea that if we really believed our advice was helping companies, we should invest in companies,” he adds. “We should bet on ourselves and on our advice.”
He mentions some of the successful companies that he was involved with – and uses one to dig at President Obama.
“Some of the companies we helped start are names you know. An office supply company called Staples – where I’m pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons. We started an early childhood learning center called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised.”
Romney, who has struggled to win over female voters, also plans to make an attempt at closing the gender gap. Noting that his mother ran for US Senate, he notes, he wishes that she could have been at the convention to hear from some of the female speakers.
“As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women,” he adds. “And in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.”
Romney will also try to subtly question whether President Obama has lived up to the promises he made during his candidacy.
“Hope and Change had a powerful appeal,” Romney plans to say. “But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?”
“You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him,” he adds.
He also seems to suggest that President Obama’s goals were too lofty, and haven’t done enough to help average Americans.
“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney says. “My promise...is to help you and your family.”
Romney’s remarks will come at the end of a three-day effort designed to rebrand Romney, who entered the convention with an unusually low favorability rating.
Among those planning to give testimonials are Bob White, who helped launch Bain Capital and has been one of Romney’s best friends; Kerry Healey, who was lieutenant governor during Romney’s four-year term in Massachusetts; Grant Bennett, a longtime Romney friend who has held leadership positions in the Mormon church.
Three Olympians – hockey player Michael Eruzione, speed skater Derek Parra, and skeet shooter Kim Rhode – plan to speak about Romney’s role running the 2002 Winter Olympics. Romney’s youngest son, Craig, is also on the list of speakers.
Actor Clint Eastwood is widely expected to make a surprise appearance.
Shortly before 10 p.m., a video will be shown that showcases Romney’s life. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, will speak just before Romney, whose speech will be the centerpiece of the convention.
After Romney’s speech, thousands of balloons, which have been stored in the rafters of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, will drop to the floor as Romney is joined by his family and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
The Republican convention got off to a late start, and was initially overshadowed by a building storm in the Gulf Coast that caused organizers to cancel most activities on Monday. As the storm developed into a hurricane headed toward New Orleans, Romney advisers contemplated a range of different scenarios to avert a split-screen of celebration at their convention and destruction across southern Louisiana.
The storm weakened and did not produce the crisis that Hurricane Katrina did seven years earlier, allowing convention planners to proceed without making further changes.
After two straight nights of prime time television, the convention—much of it a staged event with very little suspense – seems to have given Romney an initial boost. A new Reuters-Ipsos poll released Thursday showed Romney up over Obama, 44 percent to 42 percent, after being down four points on Monday.
Romney staffers posed for a group photo on the stage at the convention hall. A large contingent of Romney’s 18 grandchildren gathered to go for a swim. Stuart Stevens, a top strategist who helped Romney craft his speech, was spotted in the Marriott hotel lobby with a thick headband after a workout.
In the afternoon, Romney walked into the convention hall to test the microphones and adjust the teleprompter. The stage has been adjusted to put the podium Romney will speak from a little closer to the crowd.
On Friday morning, Romney and Ryan will board new campaign planes, wrapped in white and blue colors with “Believe in America” written on it. They will hold a rally in Lakeland, Fla., before departing for Richmond, Va. On Saturday, they will campaign in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Jacksonville, Fla.
Romney will likely spend his time next week doing debate preparations, when much of the national focus turns to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.