Mitt Romney formally accepted the Republican nomination for president Thursday night, addressing a spirited and roaring crowd of party faithful with an address in which he wished “President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.”
But Obama’s campaign promises from four years ago “gave way to disappointment and division,” Romney said in an address at the Tampa Bay Times Forum that wrapped up the Republican National Convention.
“Hope and change had a powerful appeal. 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?”
Romney added, “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.”
After the address, and the last of 100,000 balloons had dropped from the ceiling, the GOP ticket of Romney and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was cemented into place and primed for the final two-month charge for the presidency.
Ryan, 42, was the star of Wednesday’s convention, also drawing big ovations and signaling the emergence of a younger, more conservative generation of party leaders.
Thursday was Romney’s time to shine.
The evening was aimed at introducing the sometimes stiff and distant politician as a businessman, Olympic savior and religious family man. His pitch to his party and to undecided voters will be that he’s the candidate better able to shoulder the country’s economic burdens.
Romney, 65, is the married father of five with 18 grandchildren. He talked at length about his family and “unconditional love,” appearing to choke up when he talked about how close his parents were. He also talked about communities and family values.
Romney also promised a five-step plan to create 12 million jobs. A first step, he said, will be to make North America energy independent by 2020.
A plan to create jobs makes sense to Vonda Wiedmer, 63, who held an American flag aloft and swayed in time to rock music with two other Kansas delegates during a break in speeches.
“Show ’44 the door,” one of her nine lapel buttons declared. Wiedmer said she is dismayed by layers of government regulation she feels have been added by the Obama administration.
“There are people who can’t make it anymore because of regulation,” she said. “We are losing our freedom. I’m going to work for Romney-Ryan with every fiber of my being.”
Several warm-up speakers touted Romney’s credentials.
The convention also included a bit of Hollywood glamour: the appearance of iconic actor-director Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood’s gag of talking with an invisible Obama in an empty chair on the stage drew some of the loudest ovations of the night. Minutes later, a new twitter account @InvisibleObama had drawn more than 10,000 followers.
Three Olympic gold medalists introduced to raucous applause and cheers of “USA! USA!” recounted his rescue of the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Mike Eruzione’s winning goal in the 1980 hockey game against the Soviet Union capped “The Miracle on Ice.” Derek Parra won gold in the 1,500-meter speed-skating event in 2002. Kim Rhode won medals in skeet shooting in five consecutive Olympic Games.
Speakers bringing more weighty political backgrounds to the podium included Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, darling of Tea Party conservatives and once a vice presidential short-lister.
Rubio accused the President Obama of driving an $800 billion stimulus that created more debt than jobs.
“Now millions of Americans are insecure about their future,” he said. “But instead of inspiring us by reminding us of what makes us special, he divides us against each other.”
Another popular podium guest was Jeb Bush, who sang Romney’s praises, talked about education and threw in an ardent defense of his big brother.
Bush said he’s tired of listening to President Obama slamming former president George W. Bush. He called his brother “a man of integrity, courage and honor. And during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe.”
He said it was time for Obama to stop blaming George Bush for the nation’s economic woes. “You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not worked,” he said.
Bush said the election isn’t about one office but one nation.
“If we want to continue to be the greatest nation on the planet, we must give our kids what we promise them: an equal opportunity,” he said. “That starts in the classroom. It starts in our communities. It starts where you live.
“And it starts with electing Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.”
Russell Cain, 64, a delegate from Port Lavaca, Texas, was energized by the entire convention. “I feel great,” he said. “I am excited that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to be our candidates, and they are going to bring America back to what it used to be.”
Not everyone in the hall was an Obama fan. Three demonstrators, two women and one man, who chanted “Democracy is not a business” during the speech were wrestled out of the hall by security.
As soon as Romney finished speaking, Tampa’s 15 minutes of fame ended, and Charlotte’s begins. Democrats gather there Tuesday for their own three-day convention, which will feature speeches by Obama, Vice President Biden, former president Bill Clinton, Sen. John Kerry and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the keynote speaker.
Obama hasn’t been taking this week’s Republican pummeling quietly. Speaking near the University of Virginia on Wednesday, he blasted the Romney-Ryan ticket as climate-change deniers set to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans by $5 trillion and meddle with women’s reproductive rights.
“He calls my health care law Obamacare,” Obama said. “I call his plan ‘Romney Doesn’t Care.’ ”