TAMPA — Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, makes his formal debut tonight in a way that backers hope will strike a chord with undecided voters.
Mr. Romney steps on stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in a virtual tie with incumbent President Barack Obama.
He’ll deliver his acceptance speech to a convention that voted to nominate him Tuesday.
Whether the 65-year-old former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist ends up the night pushing the polling needles upward in his favor, leaving them unchanged, or, battling a setback will depend largely on how he presents himself to the national audience that will be watching.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a member of the Ohio delegation, said Mr. Romney has a chance to show voters why he’s someone they should be comfortable with.
“It’s a comfort level. It’s a trust level. People know we’re not headed in the right direction. They’re not particularly happy with the President. Now Romney’s got to make the sale,” Mr. DeWine said.
Mr. Romney’s running mate, U.S. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), accepted his nomination Wednesday night with a blistering speech that accused President Obama of inaction.
Mr. DeWine said Mr. Ryan’s verbal image of a grown son or daughter living at home with a fading Obama poster on the wall nailed a central point of the Republican campaign — the sluggish growth in jobs.
“It was an amazing line. There’s just a lot of kids out there who can’t find jobs. Most of them are underemployed from where they want to be,” Mr. DeWine said.
Delegate Dave Johnson of Columbiana County in eastern Ohio said he is “exhilarated” by the convention so far.
“This is a chance for the American people to listen from his lips what his character is, what his values are. He’s going to talk, I’m sure, about his life experiences,” said Mr. Johnson, owner of a 100-year-old family business that makes ceramic tiles. “Obama wants to make Romney out to be this silver-spoon rich guy.”
In Ohio, a key swing state, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama stood about even today, according to the average of polls by RealClearPolitics.com. The Web site put Mr. Obama at 46.6 percent and Mr. Romney at 45.2 percent.
That leaves a sliver of the electorate, about 8.2 percent of voters, who are still undecided and who will tilt the outcome on Nov. 6.
Democrats plan to turn that oft-repeated Republican line, “We Built That,” on themselves, accusing Mr. Romney of having built a record that puts him out of touch with the middle class and women voters.
Mr. Romney is set to take the stage about 10:30 p.m., about three and a half hours after the third day of the convention is gaveled into session.
The list of speakers includes a former opponent for the GOP nomination, Newt Gingrich and Mr. Gingrich’s wife, Callista; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples, a success of Mr. Romney’s venture investment firm Bain Capital; three Olympic athletes, and ending with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), before Mr. Romney himself.
Two days after the convention, Mr. Romney will be back in Ohio, at the Museum Center in Cincinnati Saturday morning.
He won’t have the state to himself this Labor Day weekend. President Obama is expected in Toledo Monday. Details of the event have not been disclosed.
The convention theme Thursday night is “We Believe in America.”
Ohio’s delegation of 66 delegates, backed by more than 400 alternate delegates, honorary delegates, guests, corporate sponsors, elected officials and party staffers was invited for the morning to a brunch featuring party strategist Karl Rove.
The event, held in the Columbia Restaurant, was closed to the media - the first of the daily brunches this week to which the Ohio reporters covering the convention have not been invited.
After the brunch, the delegates are scheduled to take the bus transportation from their hotel, the Mainsail Suites, on the nine-mile trip to the convention hall downtown. Due to security and traffic constraints, the trip has been taken more than 90 minutes each time, creating one of the few man-made glitches in an otherwise smoothly run week-long convention. The big glitch was Hurricane Isaac which forced cancelation of the first day’s events on Monday.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.