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RNC speeches aim to broaden Romney’s appeal

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The stage at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 28 displayed pictures of Mitt Romney's family while his wife Ann spoke in an effort to humanize the GOP presidential candidate.

The stage at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 28 displayed pictures of Mitt Romney's family while his wife Ann spoke in an effort to humanize the GOP presidential candidate.

TAMPA, Fla. — The loudest cheers inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum on the first night didn’t happen in prime time before a live national network audience that watched speeches by would-be First Lady Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The loudest cheers that erupted from an otherwise polite but dispassionate crowd of delegates at the Republican National Convention took place about an hour before Ann Romney hit the stage.

The loudest cheers were reserved for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose victory in a combative recall election earlier this year emboldened conservatives across the country.

“It was great that the delegates inside the building gave Gov. Walker such an ovation, but we need to speak beyond the convention to American voters watching across the country,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told FOX31 Denver Wednesday morning after speaking at a breakfast for the Colorado delegation.

On Wednesday night, as the convention reconvenes, another budget-slashing Wisconsinite, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, will attempt to really fire up the delegates and make a more convincing case for Mitt Romney.

Although reluctant to offer many specifics thus far, Romney has embraced — rhetorically, at least — Ryan’s austere budget ideology and spoken with more passion about the imperative of reducing the nation’s ballooning deficit.

With a clock tracking the growing deficit inside the convention hall, it’s likely Ryan and Romney will both speak about the subject during their own speeches, surely satisfying the delegates on the floor while also trying to convince the country.

If they want thundering applause, they’d be wise to simply echo Walker — to be the GOP ticket the Wisconsin governor says they are.

“We need someone to turn things around in America,” Walker said Tuesday night. “Now, more than ever, we need reformers, leaders who think more about the next generation than just the next election.”

Of course, if Republicans want to win, to appeal beyond their party’s base, they might be wise, as Pawlenty noted, not to worry about the decibel level inside the arena.

RNC delegates, no matter how restrained their enthusiasm may seem compared to the passion they displayed for Sarah Palin and John McCain four years ago, are already in the bag for Romney and Ryan.

It’s the undecided voters watching this convention on television the Romney campaign is focused on.

On Tuesday, delegates, despite their professed confidence that 2012 is shaping up to be a great GOP year, left the arena somewhat subdued, following a lengthy keynote address by Christie.

The blunt, bombastic governor, who would have been a strong challenger to Romney had he run this year, focused mostly on himself and his political record.

He mentioned Romney just seven times during the speech.

Ann Romney, who was a strange table-setter for Christie (although, until Hurricane Isaac cancelled the RNC’s opening night, the two weren’t scheduled to appear on the same night), made a straightforward appeal to women.

“I’m not sure if men really understand this, but I don’t think there’s a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy,” she said. “In our own ways, we all know better. But these last few years have been harder than they need to be.”

Romney described her long love affair with her husband, but also offered less personal reasons to trust him as president, trying to make him more relatable and real by addressing his perceived weaknesses head-on.

“It’s true that Mitt has been successful at each new challenge he has taken on,” she said. “It amazes me to see his history of success actually being attacked. Let’s be honest. If the last four years had been more successful, do we really think there would be this attack on Mitt Romney’s success?”

Defending her husband’s refusal to release more of his tax returns, at least implicitly, she described his generosity of spirit.

“Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a talking point,” Romney said.

But even his wife of 44 years didn’t offer America many new, personalizing tidbits about her husband, who quickly stepped on stage to join her after her speech before hustling off.

And when Romney takes the stage on Thursday, it’s unlikely he’ll show America a side they haven’t yet seen, something to suddenly make him more appealing to those voters who still have their doubts.

“Mitt needs to be himself,” former Colorado GOP Sen. Hank Brown, a Romney delegate, told FOX31 Denver on Tuesday. “He’s not one to brag, he’s not one who talks a lot about his feelings. He’s one who let’s his actions speak.”

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