TAMPA — Ohio delegates to the Republican National Convention are ready to take Tampa by storm, pardon the pun.
With Tropical Storm Isaac out of the way, delegates were expected to take their seats today in the Tampa Bay Times Forum convention hall downtown, about 9 miles from the hotel.
Delegates were sent on their way with a Republican red meat speech from unsuccessful Republican nominee Rick Santorum, who said if the party sticks to the issues he championed — maintaining the traditional family — it will win in November.
The convention is expected to do its major work today — nominating former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) as vice president.
Among those expected to speak today are Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Mr. Santorum assured the Ohio delegation of his support for Mr. Romney, especially with Ryan on the ticket.
Mr. Santorum spoke passionately about the socially conservative issues he said would appeal to voters, and criticized the Democratic Party for assigning a convention slot to the leader of Planned Parenthood.
“The economic problem in America is not an economic opportunity problem as much as it is a family breakdown problem. We’re not being judgmental. We’re telling the truth. Bottom line is we have a cultural tsunami happening,” Mr. Santorum said.
“President Obama talks about how they’ve expanded the food stamp rolls. He does that with pride. Why is that a good thing?” Mr. Santorum said, after quoting statistics showing a decline in the number of married people over 18.
“One of the things I’m most encouraged about Mitt Romney is he’s talking about family in the economy, about fathers being in the home, the importance of marriage, the importance of family,” Mr. Santorum said.
He was introduced at the delegation’s morning session by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who said the two of them were close friends and allies on such issues, including welfare reform and outlawing partial birth abortion, when they were both in the Senate.
Mr. Romney narrowly defeated Mr. Santorum in the March 6 Ohio primary. Mr. Santorum later released his delegates to Mr. Romney.
Because no Republican has ever been elected without carrying the state of Ohio, delegates are being reminded daily that it will be up to them to turn around the 2008 results in favor of Mr. Romney.
“There is no state that matters more than Ohio. You can argue some matter as much. You folks are going to make the difference. We win here,” Mr. Santorum said, referring to Ohio, “I believe we win. We don’t win here, I don’t see how. Not to put too much on you guys,” Mr. Santorum said, evoking a laugh from the audience of about 400.
Mr. DeWine also voiced support for the candidate that he did not back in the primary phase.
“Mitt Romney is someone who understands about jobs, who understands what this country really should be going for,” Mr. DeWine said. “Some of us were for Newt [Gingrich], some for Rick, some for other candidates. This is a unified party and I think Governor Romney is going to unify this country.”
After two days of hanging around the Mainsail Suites Hotel because of the storm that dumped a lot of rain but caused no serious damage in Tampa, delegates said they were eager to get to the actual convention, which has been compressed into three days.
Ranae Lentz, a delegate from Bellefontaine, Ohio, is attending her first convention. The retired employee of the Ohio Auditor of State’s office ran as a Romney delegate.
“I’m ready to go down and be excited,” said Ms. Lentz, 58. She’s a delegate from the 4th Congressional District represented by Jim Jordan (R., Urbana).
“I’m anticipating all the speeches and really looking forward to getting to know him better. What he seems to stand for is the family and all of the values that we as Republicans like.”
Delegates say they are convinced that Republicans can win Ohio for Mr. Romney.
“Gas was $1.84 when Obama took over,” Ms. Lentz said. “I think the economy needs someone with Romney’s experience. I’m sure Obama is a very nice person. I just think he needs more experience,” Ms. Lentz said. And she doesn’t mean as president.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.