TAMPA, Fla. - The most important speech of Mitt Romney's political career so far was solid, but not bold.
If picking Paul Ryan as his running mate was supposed to turn the conversation to big, bold ideas and hard truths - the Romney speech played it safe.
In fact, Romney mocked the promises made by candidate Obama to save the planet in 2008. His presidency, stressed Romney, wouldn't stop the oceans from rising, but it would create jobs, expand energy production and prevent tax increases.
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," Romney told the crowd after making a State of the Union-like entrance in Tampa. "My promise is to help you and your family."
He went after the president with a velvet glove, not a bare fist. He was speaking less to the folks in the Tampa Bay Times Forum than to the Wal-Mart moms and the suburban and ex-urban voters who supported Obama in 2008 - and still like him personally - but are disappointed in his record in office.
His most important line to these voters: "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something."
As top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens, who also happens to be the chief author of the candidate's speech, put it in an e-mail exchange with ABC News after all the balloons had dropped and confetti had landed on the floor of the convention hall: "It was a speech focused on America not just the hall. It was a speech to win an election. And I think he just knocked it out of the park."
Romney's challenge now: Giving voters a reason to vote for him, not just against
Obama. He laid the foundation for this last night. But it is the debates where he'll have to complete the sale.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The country is angry and disappointed, but Mitt Romney cast his fate this week with the latter sentiments. He built the foundations of his candidacy around his biography, and more importantly gave voters who supported President Obama four years ago a permission slip to change their minds about him. The nation may never fall in love with Mitt Romney, but the type of love they talked about this week in Tampa can stay in the family. That works particularly well if someone in that family needs a job. Romney doesn't have to create his own fervor, so long as he's holding President Obama's own heady expectations against him.
VIDEO OF THE DAY: Politically Dressed: Fashion at the RNC: An inside look at the kooky side of Republican fashion with ABC News' Shushannah Walshe and political and fashion guru J. Hogan Gidley, former communications director on Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/PBzS66
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
ROMNEY ACCEPTS. ABC's Russell Goldman and Emily Friedman report: In an energized address that followed three days of speeches by allies, friends and family members, Romney sought to reintroduce himself as a candidate who is sympathetic to the concerns of struggling Americans. "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed," Romney said. "But his promises gave way to disappointment and division." "Today," Romney said, "the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us." … "If I am elected president of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America… Let us begin that future together tonight," he said moments before a wall of balloons descended on the convention hall. http://abcn.ws/PEDpqa
A PROMISE OF PRACTICALITY. Mitt Romney made a straightforward bargain with voters in his convention speech Thursday night: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family. I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators." http://abcn.ws/TDtn5j
DISAPPOINTED IN OBAMA. The tone Mitt Romney struck wasn't one of anger, but of disappointment in President Obama for failing to deliver on promises, as Romney posed it. From his speech: I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we CAN do something. With your help we will do something. Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, "I'm an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!" http://abcn.ws/TDtn5j
WHO WAS ROMNEY'S AUDIENCE? ABC's Matthew Dowd talked to Amy Walter and Rick Klein on our livestreamed ABC/Yahoo! convention Web show about whom Mitt Romney's speech was for: "The audience for this speech is a very small audience. It is an audience of some Latino voters, who voted for Barack Obama and don't like the direction of our country, and it's an audience of women voters who like Barack Obama but don't like the direction of the country and have some sort of queasiness about Mitt Romney-and that's his audience for tonight, and that's who he needs to appeal to … There are basically four moments left for Mitt Romney in the course of this campaign, four big moments left in this campaign, and this is the first one-the other three are the debates-but this is the first moment where he can actually do something to change the trajectory of this race." http://abcn.ws/PEEVbM
ROMNEY SAYS THE 'M' WORD. Thursday night at the Republican National Convention involved more direct discussion of Romney's Mormonism than we've seen previously in this campaign to date, as Romney highlighted something about himself that observers thought might damage him among evangelical Christian voters in the GOP primary. Romney rarely says the word "Mormon," but he did in his primetime speech, and later in it he joked about religion and not asking the church's pension fund to invest in Bain Capital-because he didn't want to go to Hell-another word Romney rarely, if ever, uses. The quote: "I figured it was bad enough that I might lose my investors' money, but I didn't want to go to Hell, too. Shows what I know. Another of my partners got the Episcopal church pension fund to invest, and today there are a lot of happy retired priests who will thank him."
ROMNEY'S BIG NIGHT. ABC's David Muir reports for "World News" on the lead-up to the nominee's big moment: "Tonight here it's MItt Romney's turn to make the case for himself, revising the speech for weeks now on his iPad, the one he carries at his side on the campaign." http://abcn.ws/ONpVVH
EASTWOOD ELECTRIFIES CROWD, INTERVIEWS INVISIBLE OBAMA. ABC's Gregory J. Krieg reports: Clint Eastwood made a surprise appearance at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, calling unemployment in America "a national disgrace" before interviewing an empty chair he addressed as "President Obama." "I got Mr. Obama sitting here and I was gonna ask him a couple questions," Eastwood drawled, turning his head toward the bare stool. "Mr. President, how do you handle promises you made when you were running for election?" he asked. "What do you say to people?" But Eastwood cut off the interviewee: "I'm not gonna shut up. It's my turn," he said. http://abcn.ws/O8Fsy5
CLINT EASTWOOD'S THROAT-SLICING MOMENT. Clint Eastwood's appearance offered a big departure from the rest of the convention program, and this moment might have been a bit off message: in talking about firing President Obama for failing to get the job done, Eastwood made a throat-slicing motion. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/T1KgsN
RUBIO HIGHLIGHTS ROMNEY'S IMMIGRANT STORY. In a speech laced with his own compelling personal story, Sen. Marco Rubio praised Mitt Romney by drawing a link between his own immigrant story and Romney's, in the primetime speech preceeding Romney's. Rubio said: ""It's the story of a man who was born into an uncertain future in a foreign country. His family came to America to escape revolution. They struggled through poverty and the great depression. And yet he rose to be an admired businessman, and public servant And in November, his son, Mitt Romney, will be elected President of these United States."
ROMNEY'S FELLOW CHURCHGOERS HIGHLIGHT HIS SERVICE, CARE FOR SICK. Convention planners devoted a chunk of Thursday night to portraying Romney's activities in the Mormon church, with remarks by four of his fellow churchgoers, who highlighted his role in their lives. Some highlights … Grant Bennett, who succeeded Romney as pastor of their church: "I was an assistant to Mitt when he was our pastor. I had a front row seat and it was marvelous to behold! As we began working together, Mitt asked, "How early can I call you in the morning?" I said 6 a.m. I regret my answer -, Mitt became my alarm clock." … Pam Finlayson on Romney's help when her daughter was born prematurely: "I will never forget that when he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back. I could tell immediately that he didn't just see a tangle of plastic and tubes; he saw our beautiful little girl, and he was clearly overcome with compassion for her."
RYAN ON BUDGET CUTS, HIS SON SLEEPING DURING HIS SPEECH. ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who told her that "Mitt Romney's been more specific about what it's going to take to prevent a debt crisis, on solutions to get people back to work, than anybody running for president, including the president." WATCH Diane Sawyer's interview with Paul Ryan here: http://abcn.ws/QIhzli
FEDERAL COURT BLOCKS VOTER ID LAW. From ABC's Ariane de Vogue: A federal court in Washington ruled on Thursday that a Texas Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act, effectively blocking the law from taking effect. The unanimous three judge district court ruled, "The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that - at least to our knowledge - is the most stringent in the country. That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty." In the weeks leading up to the election, the law - passed by a Republican-led Texas legislature - has gained particular attention as supporters said it was meant to protect voter integrity, while critics claimed it would lead to voter suppression. The Voter ID law requires people voting in person to provide certain government-issued photo IDs when the come to the http://abcn.ws/T1P4OS
ROMNEY MAKING A LIST OF DEMS FOR LAME DUCK? Rep. Cathy McCmorris-Rodgers, who spoke at the convention in Tampa on Thursday night, told Amy Walter and Rick Klein in our live ABc/Yahoo! convention Web show that Mitt Romney's aides are already assembling a list of Democrats with whom to work on key votes in Congress's lame-duck session, should Mitt Romney win: "He's going to be working with us," said McMorris Rodgers. "I am very confident. Even now I've been working as his house liaison. He's interested in meeting with every member, hearing what their ideas are, what their priorities are. They've even talked to me about Democrats they could be reaching out to." "To switch parties?" asked Amy. "No. To work with them across the aisle on all of these important issues," said McMorris Rodgers. http://abcn.ws/RtkN7n
'DAILY SHOW' STAR POKED BY DELEGATE DURING ABC/YAHOO! INTERVIEW. Watch as a GOP delegate interrupts Amy Walter and Rick Klein's interview with Comedy Central's Jason Jones-who said Herman Cain was the funniest GOP candidate of all-by poking Jones with a cane and scolding him for laughing during a serious speech about the deficit. "I've never got poked before," Jones said. Poking happens at 4:59 mark: http://abcn.ws/N37WMC
MCCONNELL SUMS UP OBAMA'S CAMPAIGN: 'IT'S NOT MY FAULT.' Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sat with ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein for an interview during our ABC/Yahoo! livestreamed convention Web show. McConnell, an experienced political strategist, summed up President Obama's campaign thusly: "They've got a president with a record no one likes. They like him personally, they're disappointed in him, but they don't like what he's done. The only way they can win is to run a campaign basically that could best be described as: It's not my fault. … They decided to play that card really hard, early." http://abcn.ws/NGow0k
JEB BUSH'S ADVICE TO MITT ROMNEY: SHOW YOUR HEART. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday spoke with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who wrote: "It's hard for him to show his heart. I respect that. I was brought up being told not to brag, not to open up and show your frailties and show your emotions, but he has to," Bush told me. "Where it matters is connecting with other people's concerns. I don't think he has to be like this New Age kind of guy all of a sudden. He's not going to be that way." http://abcn.ws/PEKcu4
DNC CHAIR CALLS GOP 'CRASS' FOR PARTYING IN FACE OF ISAAC. ABC's Elicia Dover reports: Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke out today against the Republican National Convention's handling of Hurricane Isaac, which is causing havoc along the Gulf Coast. Wasserman Schultz said the RNC "could have taken things down a notch," during their speeches. "I think it probably was an example of their continued focus of winning at all costs," Wasserman Schultz said. http://abcn.ws/OBXg3R
@ZekeJMiller : The Ryan plane is as old as the VP candidate…
@HotlineJosh : Kristol hits Romney for not praising troops, talking Afghanistan. Theme at DNC natl security RT @stephenfhayes: No War? http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/what-war_651279.html …
@jimacostacnn : Romney camp on Clint: His ad libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it.
- Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan hold a joint campaign event in Florida before Romney flies to New Orleans and Ryan heads to Virginia.
- President Obama heads to Texas today to tout his foreign policy accomplishments and mark the two-year anniversary of the end of the combat mission in Iraq. Showing off the power of the incumbency, the president will meet with troops and deliver remarks at an official White House event.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV