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National Politics

Romney focuses on his personal side in accepting nomination

The Palm Beach Post
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:52 AM
TAMPA -

With members of his own party counseling Mitt Romney to show a more personal side, the new Republican presidential nominee used the biggest speech of his life Thursday to touch on his family and faith and to make a pitch for disappointed swing voters who no longer feel the "fresh excitement" of President Obama's 2008 campaign.

Romney gave his acceptance speech after a parade of fellow church members, business associates, political colleagues and Olympians offered personal testimonials and actor Clint Eastwood made a surprise appearance.

The emphasis on personal history was a departure for the normally guarded Romney. But the nominee didn't completely jettison his reputation as a metrics-driven businessman. He called for a five-point jobs program that he said would create 12 million new jobs.

"Now is the time to restore the promise of America," Romney declared. "Many Americans have given up on this president but they haven't ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America."

Speaking at the end of a three-day convention in which one Republican after another hammered Obama's record on the economy and the $16 trillion national debt, Romney made few direct attacks on the incumbent.

After more than five years of officially and unofficially running for the White House and being tagged as rigid and aloof, Romney delivered his remarks from a stage positioned closer to the audience than it had been for all other convention speakers.

Stagehands put the new lectern in place while Romney entered via the convention floor, shaking hands with delegates as Kid Rock's "Born Free" blared over the Forum's sound system.

Romney spoke of growing up in a family that gave him unconditional love and where "my mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example."

Romney's father George was an auto executive who became governor of Michigan in the 1960s and sought the 1968 Republican presidential nod. But Romney didn't dwell on that history.

Instead, with polls showing his support lagging among female voters, Romney mentioned his mother Lenore Romney's failed 1970 Senate bid and how "my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, 'Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?'"

Romney, the first Mormon to be the presidential nominee of a major party, spoke after some of his fellow worshippers offered emotional tributes to Romney's faith and friendship.

Romney, whose leadership of the private equity firm Bain Capital has been characterized as ruthless profiteering by Democrats, defended his business background and accused Obama of not understanding business.

"The centerpiece of the president's entire re-election campaign is attacking success," he said.

"In America we celebrate success, we don't apologize for success," Romney said, drawing big applause.

Romney called for developing more oil, coal, gas, nuclear and renewable energy sources. He said these steps could bring energy independence by 2020. He also called for job training, international trade agreements, cutting the deficit and cutting taxes.

He also called for repealing the federal health care law, drawing cheers, but he did not spend much time on the issue. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney championed a health care law that many consider the forerunner of the federal law.

Before Romney spoke, Tallahassee-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson said Romney needed to seize Thursday night's speech as both a first and final opportunity to present his story in unfiltered form.

"President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," Romney said. "My promise is to help you and your family."

Romney was interrupted early in his speech by hecklers who were escorted out while the crowd chanted "USA, USA!"

While Romney has drawn sharp contrasts to Obama throughout the campaign, he also tried Thursday tried to appeal to voters who supported Obama in 2008.

"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed," Romney said at one point.

"How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America? Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago," Romney said.

"Hope and change had a powerful appeal," Romney said. "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."

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