Romney anointed as Republican presidential nominee
By JEFF ZELENY
The New York Times
TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who has aspired to reach the White House since his father first sought the office four decades ago, was nominated by the Republican Party here Tuesday to become the 45th president of the United States.
The moment the party elevated Romney, completing his six-year quest to win the nomination, his family and a parade of Republicans leaders opened a well-choreographed effort to reintroduce him to Americans and bolster his campaign to defeat President Barack Obama in November.
The Republican National Convention moved ahead with its business but was threatened to be overshadowed by Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall in Louisiana shortly after Romney secured the nomination. As he flew to Florida on Tuesday, earlier than originally scheduled, his campaign kept open the prospect of upending their proceedings again, fearful of looking insensitive if the storm damaged the Gulf Coast.
Romney's wife, Ann, took the lead in trying to shape perceptions of her husband, hailing him as a strong and steadfast family man whom Americans could trust to help rebuild the economy. It was the first chapter in an effort to humanize Romney at the convention, with Election Day just more than two months away.
“This man will not fail. This man will not let us down,” Ann Romney was expected to say, according to an excerpt from her prime-time address. “This man will lift up America.”
The Republican convention served as not only an opportunity to humanize Romney but also to hammer Obama. A steady stream of Republicans came before thousands of party activists here and praised Romney's business acumen as they assailed the president's stewardship of the economy.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, blunt and sharp-tongued, was set to cap the evening with a keynote address to forcefully make the case that Obama's policies have failed. It was also a time for Christie to urge conservatives to increase their enthusiasm for Romney.
The roll call of the states took place Tuesday afternoon, five hours before the prime-time television coverage began, an effort by the Romney campaign to avoid giving up precious network time and drawing even more attention to the still-smoldering tensions from the Republican primary fight.
John Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and a dean of the Republican Party, formally placed Romney's name into nomination and hailed him as a leader who can “fix the unfixable.” As the crowd cheered, he added: “Mitt Romney is the right man at the right time and will be a great leader for our country.”
Romney and his wife watched from their nearby hotel suite as New Jersey put him over the threshold of necessary delegates for the nomination at 5:40 p.m. The convention hall erupted in cheers, and the crowd chanted, “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt,” but it was not a unanimous response from the delegates, including some who folded their arms.
When John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House, arrived on stage to read the final tally from all of the states and U.S. territories, Romney had recorded 2,061 delegates. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, whose libertarian views have earned him a fervently loyal following, won 197 delegates as well as applause from his vocal supporters on the convention floor at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, one of the party's leading voices on reshaping the size and role of government, was unanimously nominated as the Republican vice-presidential candidate.
The vote for Romney on Tuesday was simply a ratification of what Republican primary voters settled five months ago, but it reprised the hard feelings from some delegates, particularly those who traveled here to support Paul. While it was far from a contested convention that Romney's aides had once feared, the strains highlighted the competing factions welling inside the Republican Party.
When Paul arrived on the floor a few hours earlier, his supporters rose to their feet and loudly called on Republican officials to “let him speak.” Suddenly, a slow, orderly and largely symbolic process erupted in anger, presenting a raucous scene that even the most seasoned delegates said they had not seen in decades. The proceedings, if only for a few moments, harked to an era when contentious party conventions actually decided presidential nominees.
The activists, almost all of them supporters of Paul, complained that party leaders had silenced their microphones and squelched their attempts to raise an objection to the process of seating delegates and approving a new set of rules pushed by the Romney campaign.
The Texas delegation voiced its disgust, drawing attention in the hall by dressing uniformly in white cowboy hats and Texas-flag shirts. And Iowa and Nevada, general-election battlegrounds that Romney is fighting to win, cast the majority of their delegates for Paul, who spent months building grass-roots organizations in both states.
Cindy Lake, a supporter of Paul's from Nevada, fumed at being shut down.
“They said to us: `You have no voice anymore. The Tea Party has no voice,”' Lake said. “This is a completely draconian disenfranchisement by the elite of the rank and file.”
But the discontent was largely contained to the convention hall, where the vast majority of attendees were dedicated supporters of Romney — or at least strong critics of Obama. At a convention that was designed to present a fuller and softer portrait of Romney, the night was supplemented by harsh attacks on the president, with Republican leaders portraying him as a political neophyte who is hostile to American enterprise.
“Four years ago, Barack Obama was an unproven leader,” said Reince Priebus, the national Republican chairman. “Today, he's proven himself. He's proven he's not up for the job.” He added, “He's a man of many words, but he's not a man of his word.”
The evening offered competing images of the Republican convention and Hurricane Isaac, which led the evening newscasts. Romney campaign officials closely monitored the storm, having already canceled programming Monday, the scheduled opening of a convention that had been carefully planned to reintroduce Romney to his largest audience yet.
Hundreds of photographs of Romney decorated the corridors of the convention center. Videos of the Romney family played on large screens overhead. And interviews with the five Romney children played again and again on cable television, designed to help voters and even Republican activists to grow comfortable with their nominee.
The efforts to humanize Romney seemed to be working, at least for some who gathered here from across the country and began learning more about their party's standard-bearer.
Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who gained a national following among conservatives for shouting “You lie” at Obama during his health care speech before a joint session of Congress three years ago, said his earlier reservations about Romney had been resolved as he learned more about him. He said he had picked up a new biographical detail about Romney from the convention literature.
“I didn't know he had five sons,” Wilson said.