TAMPA -- Mitt Romney presented the first crucial chapter Thursday of his bid to become the country’s 45th president, accepting the Republican nomination and urging the nation to look closely at his résumé, his vision and his remedies for the ailing economy.
“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division,” Romney said. “This isn’t something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help we will do something.”
He appealed to the nation’s enduring sense of optimism. “Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, ‘I’m an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better. My children deserve better. My family deserves better. My country deserves better,’ ” he said.
Romney said he understands many are disappointed with President Barack Obama, whose job approval numbers in key national polls have been under 50 percent.
“Hope and change had a powerful appeal,” Romney said, recalling Obama’s 2008 mantra. “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?
“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,” the 65-year-old former Massachusetts governor and business executive told the Republican National Convention and a nationwide audience estimated at as many as 40 million people.
To make that choice, Romney said, America must get to know him better. He talked fondly of his wife and family, explained his religious views and recalled his days as a businessman trying to start a small company.
The speech was Romney’s first, best chance to stand before the nation alone as his party’s nominee, his message unfiltered, and make his case.
Traditionally, candidates get a bounce in support from such appearances, although this one could evaporate more quickly than usual, as Obama will give his own address at the Democratic National Convention next Thursday.
Romney faces two perceptions that have dogged him throughout his presidential run: that he lacks warmth and that his positions on issues are too malleable.
Thursday, it was Romney’s turn alone in the spotlight, the manager trying to close the deal.
He spoke of his family.
“My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all, the gift of unconditional love. They cared deeply about who we would be, and much less about what we would do,” Romney said. His parents were well-known political figures in his native Michigan. His father, George, was the state’s governor from 1963 to 1969 and his mother unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 1970.
Mitt Romney talked about his wife, Ann, who addressed the convention Tuesday night and received praise for adding a human touch to the event.
“Unconditional love is a gift that Ann and I have tried to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren,” the father of five and grandfather of 18 said. “All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers.”
With his Mormon faith still a cause of some quiet resistance from evangelical Christians — he would be the first of his religion elected president — Romney patiently described what his faith means to him as his family moved to new places.
“Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church,” he said. “When we were new to the community it was welcoming, and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church.”
Romney’s campaign believes, and polling confirms, that this election is largely a referendum on who can best manage the economy. Romney devoted much of his talk to his plan to create 12 million new jobs with a five-point plan.
“I am running for president to help create a better future,” Romney said. “A future where everyone who wants a job can find one. Where no senior fears for the security of their retirement. An America where every parent knows that their child will get an education that leads them to a good job and a bright horizon.”
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