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Americas

Republicans open national convention despite Hurricane Isaac

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-08-30

Republicans opened their national convention on Tuesday where Mitt Romney will formally be nominated as their candidate to challenge President Barack Obama. The political festival has shrunk to a three-day affair because of Hurricane Isaac.

AP - Republicans opened their national convention Tuesday to formally nominate Mitt Romney as their candidate to unseat President Barack Obama, watching anxiously as a hurricane was poised to hit the Gulf Coast just as the first political speeches are uncorked.

The political festival aimed at bringing the party together behind Romney and pitching him to a national audience, especially key independent voters, has shrunk to a three-day affair because of the storm. Monday's planned opening was symbolic and over in minutes.

Hurricane Isaac could rain down on a wide swathe of the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, around the same time Romney's wife, Ann, speaks to the convention Tuesday night. Her mission is to show a more personal side of a candidate the Obama campaign has tried to paint as a big-business titan out of touch with the struggles of average Americans.

Romney will attend her speech, Ann Romney confirmed to reporters Tuesday morning. ``It's going to be fun for him to be there.'' Mitt Romney makes his own speech Thursday.

Polls show Romney and Obama running about even, but each man holds significant leads with voters in important areas that could sway the roughly 10 percent of Americans who say they haven't settled yet on one man or the other.

Obama holds a big lead in polls as the candidate who best relates to the needs of poor and middle-class Americans. That an advantage could come into sharper focus as Isaac storms ashore near New Orleans, resurrecting the ghost of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city and killed 1,800 people exactly seven years ago. The slow response to the chaos put the presidency of Republican George W. Bush into a downward political spiral.

Trying to balance leadership with campaigning, Obama delivered a brief update on Isaac from the White House before leaving on a three-state trip.

``Now is not the time to tempt fate,'' he warned the public. ``You need to take this seriously.''

At his first stop in Iowa, Obama returned to concerns about the approaching storm, telling a student audience at Iowa State University that Americans would ``help our neighbors in need.''

In the same remarks, Obama castigated Republicans, saying their convention ``should be a pretty entertaining show. ... But what you won't hear from them is a path forward that meets the challenges of our time.''

Romney is more highly regarded as the candidate who can restore the economy, the top issue for voters. Now he must reach out not only to independent voters but to more conservative Republicans who are wary of his more moderate views on abortion and other social issues.

Ultimately, it will be up to Romney ``to let the American people see who he is,'' said New Jersey's colorful governor, Chris Christie, who delivers the keynote address Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders will try to convince Americans that Obama is a failed president, unable to keep his promise to restore economic vitality and reduce stubbornly high unemployment - still at 8.3 percent three years after the Great Recession.

Republicans have been increasingly energized and influenced by the anti-tax, small-government tea party movement, whose members tend to see political moderation and compromise as akin to betrayal. Romney thrilled conservatives by naming one of their favorites, congressman Paul Ryan, as his vice presidential running mate.

Romney's acceptance speech Thursday night will be the highlight of the convention. Ryan delivers his acceptance speech Wednesday.

Democrats were also on the ground in Tampa to fight the Republican message. Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa said Republican efforts to use Latino speakers at the convention to win over Hispanic voters won't work.

``You can't just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate,'' he said.

``Window dressing doesn't do much for a candidate. It's your policies, your platform.''

Democrats hold their convention next week. Obama and his party will intensify attacks on Romney's business experience, claiming that the private equity firm he once headed, Bain Capital, made a fortune for investors while bankrupting some companies and laying off workers.

Date created : 2012-08-28

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