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Reporting by the Associated Press
Ann Romney Says America Can Trust Her Husband
Meet Mitt Romney’s sweetheart.
Making her national debut, Ann Romney swept onto the stage at the Republican National Convention late Tuesday night and delivered a forceful defense of her husband’s character and values – and made an all-out play for the critical women’s vote – in a speech designed to introduce the country to the man she knows better than anyone.
“I love you women! And I hear your voices,” she said, wearing a red, belted dress as black-and-white photos of her family flashed on a giant screen above her head.
She touched on her struggles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. She defended her husband’s work ethic, saying, “I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success.” And she told the crowd about what she says she has learned about her husband after 43 years of marriage.
“This man will not fail,” she said, as the crowd in Tampa Bay Times Forum erupted with cheers and gave her a sustained standing ovation.
Her pitch was aimed squarely at women who are raising families. “If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It’s how it is, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right.”
And Mrs. Romney defended her husband’s wild success in business, offering a character testimonial to counter Democratic attack ads that have worked to paint her husband as wealthy and out-of-touch.
“Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point,” she said. “And we’re no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don’t do it so that others will think more of them. They do it because there is no greater joy.”
The goal of her carefully crafted speech: Help people understand the warm, personal side of her husband, a longtime candidate who has sometimes struggled to connect with voters – and who isn’t nearly as well-liked as his opponent, Democratic President Barack Obama.
“Tonight, I want to talk to you about love,” Mrs. Romney said.
The woman whom Romney often introduces as “my sweetheart, Ann Romney!” has played the role of humanizer for months now. Together, she and Mitt Romney have five children and 18 grandchildren who range in age from 16 years to just a few months old. She has appeared onstage often with her husband, who’s obviously more at ease when she’s by his side.
They met in high school, kept in touch while he served as a Mormon missionary in France, married young and had five children. On Tuesday, she emphasized how their struggles shaped their relationship.
“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a `storybook marriage,”‘ she told the crowd. “Those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”
Mrs. Romney has never appeared before a crowd the size of the one gathered at the convention. The speech was viewed as so critical by the campaign that it moved her appearance, originally scheduled for Monday, a day later after the networks announced they wouldn’t cover the first evening’s events live.
“I’ve never gone off a written text. So this is a unique experience for me,” Mrs. Romney said as she and her husband flew from Bedford, Mass., near their home, to Tampa on Tuesday morning.
Mrs. Romney suggested she played a significant role in shaping her speech.
“I did say it’s going to be pretty, pretty tough to actually write a speech that I feel like I can actually give, and so I had a lot of input in this, I must say,” she told reporters. “And a lot of tweaking where I felt like I was getting what I really wanted to say from my heart.”
Romney’s campaign is trying to show more of the two of them together – and emphasize their love story as an essential part of his biography. When Romney did an interview for “Fox News Sunday” ahead of the convention, the couple also invited anchor Chris Wallace to their lakeside home in New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney flipped pancakes on a griddle and Mrs. Romney, son Tagg, and several of his grandchildren looked on.
When the pair sat down for a long interview with CBS News, they drove an hour out of their way to the Birmingham, Mich., movie theater where the couple used to go on dates as high school students.
And on Tuesday night – wearing bright red in part because, her spokeswoman said, “Mitt voted for it,” – she turned those early evenings out into a pitch for why voters should back her husband this fall.
“He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance,” she said.
Christie’s Blunt Style Tested In Convention Speech
With a rowdy fist-pump, blunt and brash New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lit a fire Tuesday night under the Republican National Convention, labeling Democratic President Barack Obama part of the complacent status quo.
“It’s been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues. And we’ve stood silently by and let them get away with it,” the first-term Republican governor said with a rock star’s rasp during the keynote address. “But tonight, I say enough.”
His mission was to make the case against Obama and fire up a convention delayed in its start by a tropical storm.
Like a coach before a football game, Christie implored the thousands inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum to rally behind GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
“Everybody stand up. There’s no time left to waste,” the outspoken former prosecutor shouted.
Judging by the thundering cheers inside the arena, Christie hit his mark. That outspoken style made him a Republican Party star and helped earn him the plum, prime-time speaking gig.
He rocketed up the GOP ranks in 2009, winning the Democratic-heavy Eastern state the year after Obama was elected and establishing a reputation as confrontational to big labor and public employees. Early in the GOP nominating campaign, Republicans uninspired by Romney aggressively urged Christie to seek the nomination.
New York delegate David Shimkin said he admired Christie’s frankness. “He doesn’t seem to have a filter. A lot of candidates don’t do that,” Shimkin said.
As keynote speaker, Christie was tasked with making the prime-time pitch for Romney, who remains something of a mystery to voters even though polls show him locked in a close contest with Obama.
Christie considered running for the nomination himself but months ago decided to endorse Romney, who made a personal entreaty for Christie’s support as the GOP primaries were getting under way.
Christie on Tuesday waved off a published report that he had turned down an offer to be Romney’s running mate because he didn’t think Romney could win in November.
“Not only do I believe he can win, I think he will win,” Christie told “CBS This Morning.”
Temperamentally and stylistically the opposite of the buttoned-up Romney, Christie acknowledged in interviews that the former Massachusetts governor has work to do to close the sale with some voters, especially women.
“Mitt Romney’s going to have to win this campaign. He’s going to have to let the American people see who he is,” Christie said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” adding that Romney’s choice Ryan as his running mate had brought more energy to the ticket.
After he toppled Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009, national Republicans embraced Christie for his tough talk on fiscal matters and for taking on public employee unions, especially teachers. Web videos of Christie berating teachers at town hall meetings quickly went viral, giving Christie a large national audience. Critics dubbed him “Gov. YouTube,” suggesting he was more interested in getting publicity for himself than for improving New Jersey’s finances.
Democrats warned that viewers shouldn’t buy Christie’s claim of a “Jersey comeback.” They pointed to economic data showing the state still grappling with weak employment and high property taxes.
“Chris Christie is taking the stage in Tampa tonight to talk about his favorite topic: himself,” state Assemblyman John Wisniewski told reporters during a conference call before the speech. “Gov. Christie’s record in New Jersey is certainly not a model for our nation, and the people in Tampa should know that.”
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and a likely 2016 presidential contender, went further, saying he expected Christie to deliver an “angry, Don Rickles keynote extolling the virtues of their candidate, Mitt Romney, who had one of the worst job creation rates in the nation.”