IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

GOP headliners cast Romney as gentle but decisive

Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.
Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.Charlie Neibergall / AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- The two highest-profile speakers Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention sought to paint Mitt Romney as sensitive and relatable, but also resolute and decisive in a way that President Barack Obama is not.

Ann Romney, the wife of the Republican nominee-in-waiting, made an unmasked pitch to women voters, a bloc her husband has struggled with in the polls.

Watch Tuesday night's speeches here

And Chris Christie, the brash governor of New Jersey, used his keynote event to lionize Romney as a problem solver who would prioritize "respect over love" from voters.

Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.
Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.Charlie Neibergall / AP

These speeches, broadcast to a national audience, were among the best-received remarks in an evening that sometimes suffered from a lack of energy among delegates who have gathered in downtown Tampa.

"No one will work harder, no one will care more, and no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live," Mrs. Romney said in one of the evening's biggest applause lines.

Slideshow: The 2012 Republican National Convention

Many of Tuesday's various speeches showcased the party's diversity, particularly among women and Latinos.

The speakers emphasized hardscrabble roots and the importance of small businesses in keeping with the evening's theme, "We Built It" -- a play on President Barack Obama's comments in July about government's role in supporting business.

"We ended an era of absentee leadership without purpose or principle in New Jersey; it’s time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House," Christie said, adding a degree of immediacy before the crowd of delegates.

"America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and we need them right now," he added.

The New Jersey governor is regarded as one of the Republican Party's most direct voices, which has made him a star in the GOP -- so much so that some Republicans had recruited him (unsucessfully) to run for president this campaign cycle.

The Republican convention was shortened after inclement weather forced organizers to cancel Monday's programming. In this time span, the GOP is tasked with making their case against Obama and humanizing Mitt Romney, whose personal opinion rating was in net-negative territory entering the convention.

Part of that included an attack on Obama's own words from a Roanoke, Va., campaign event: "If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen," followed by criticism of that "you didn't get there on your own" contention.

"Now if a guy walked into our bar, heard all that, and said, 'If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,'" said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, referring to his own family's bar. "You know what we’d do. Throw him out."

The evening was often an excercise, too, in projecting the party's diversity. For a stretch during the evening, no white men were featured as speakers.

Watch Tuesday night's speeches here

Ann Romney's speech was tailored in large part to speak directly toward women, whether single or working.

"It's the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right," she said.

Obama led Romney 51 percent to 41 percent among women in the August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and the GOP brand lags significantly behind the Democratic brand among women voters. Forty-five percent of women in the August poll had a favorable impression of the Democratic Party, while 36 percent had an unfavorable view; women voters had a 36 percent positive view of the GOP, and a 47 percent negative view.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte stands on stage during a soundcheck with stage manager Howard Kolins during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte stands on stage during a soundcheck with stage manager Howard Kolins during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Ann Romney also described her relationship with Mitt as far from a "storybook marriage," recounting difficulties ranging from raising five sons to battling multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.

"I know this good and decent man for what he is -- warm and loving and patient," she said.

But if Mrs. Romney's speech was directed toward softening Romney's public persona, Christie's was intended to project Romney's strength (and boast a little bit of his own).

Indeed, one of the most warmly welcomed Republicans to speak Tuesday evening was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed a controversial bill curbing collective bargaining rights through his state legislature, and survived a resulting recall effort.

"Now, more than ever, we need reformers: leaders who think more about the next generation than just the next election," Walker said. "That’s what you get from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."