CONVENTION WATCH: Convention kiss, praising mom

Associated Press
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hugs his wife Ann after she addressed the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Around the 2012 Republican National Convention and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details to you:

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THERE HE IS

The song playing was "My Girl" by The Temptations as Mitt Romney made his first appearance at the Republican National Convention to congratulate his wife, Ann, after her speech Tuesday night.

They kissed. He grinned. She grinned. The crowd roared. The whole thing lasted less than 30 seconds. And the newly minted GOP presidential nominee was gone — at least for the moment.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/anthonyted

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THEY GOT THE MEMO

The GOP convention's Tuesday theme is "We Built It," and nearly every speaker is hitting that note.

A sampling:

"Mitt Romney was not handed success. He built it." — Ann Romney, wife of the nominee.

"No guarantees. No government there to hold your hand. Just a dream and the desire to do better. President Obama doesn't get this. He can't fix the economy because he doesn't know how it was built." — House Speaker John Boehner.

"They tell us we didn't build our businesses. That somebody else made it happen. They tell us not to dream, but to settle. You and I know America is better than that." — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

"Big government didn't build America: You built America! Small businesses don't come out of Washington, D.C., pre-made on flatbed trucks." — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

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HONORING MOM

Directly on the heels of Ann Romney's outreach to women, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is crafting his speech, too, around a woman — his mother.

Christie says it was his mother who taught him the key lessons of life — including, Christie says, that sometimes it's more important to be respected than loved. Christie said his mother was the family's enforcer.

The Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, is believed to be lagging President Barack Obama in gaining women's votes. It's probably no coincidence that so much focus on this key night of the Republican convention is devoted to praising — indeed, lauding — strong women.

— Sally Buzbee

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WE BUILT IT

Two business people who spoke to the Republican convention's "we built it" theme also received some help from Uncle Sam.

Phil Archuletta of New Mexico-based P&M Signs assailed the Obama administration for nearly "putting us out of business" because of changes in procurement rules. He also lamented that "nothing happened" from his requests for stimulus money. A review of government data found P&M Signs received more than $340,000 in federal stimulus contracts under President Barack Obama.

Another speaker, Sher Valenzuela, took aim at government involvement in business. She received $17 million in federal contracts and loans, the liberal watchdog Media Matters first reported Tuesday.

One of the convention's themes is that small-business owners created their success through their own hard work, not by reliance on government. It's a dig at Obama's much-maligned remarks that entrepreneurs rely on government-supported infrastructure that they "didn't build."

— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum

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QUICKQUOTE: CHRIS CHRISTIE

"I don't want my children and grandchildren to have to read in a history book what it was like to live in an American Century." — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, delivering the keynote speech Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention.

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ANN ON MITT

"This man will not fail." — Ann Romney, on her husband.

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SANTORUM GLIMPSES

In a tightly controlled convention, there are surprisingly few echoes or reminders of the long and sometimes chaotic Republican primary fight that dominated political news coverage in the first part of the year. But former Sen. Rick Santorum's speech gave a rare flashback to that primary fight.

On a night when many speakers focused on the ailing economy and how to best fix it, Santorum took a different tack and focused mostly on social issues such as single parenthood, the Education Department and welfare. Another reminder of those winter and early spring primaries: the proud smiles of two of his daughters — so often seen as the daughters stood behind him as he talked.

This time, the daughters were in the audience, but their proud, fond smiles as their father spoke were a vivid reminder of the primary days.

— Sally Buzbee

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JUST HANGING AROUND

The balloons are ready.

They won't fall to the convention floor in vivid red, blue and white disarray until Mitt Romney gives his acceptance speech on Thursday night. But they're waiting — tied up in big nets hanging high from the ceiling of the Forum in Tampa where Republican National Convention delegates are meeting.

Volunteers helped tie the balloons and lifted them to the ceiling before the convention started. Nestled among them are some huge, white beach ball-looking balloons — it will be interesting to see how those fall.

— Sally Buzbee

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QUICKQUOTE: ANN ROMNEY

"We're too smart to know there aren't easy answers. But we're not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers. And that is where this boy I met at a high school dance comes in. His name is Mitt Romney and you should really get to know him." — Ann Romney, in her convention address, speaking about her husband.

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ENCOURAGING WORDS

A quick exchange between Mitt and Ann Romney, at their hotel before they left for the convention hall:

Mitt Romney: "Break a leg — you'll do great"

Ann Romney: "I am excited. I am not nervous."

— Kasie Hunt — http://twitter.com/kasie

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FADING DREAM?

The Republican Party's convention speeches are putting emphasis on restoring the American Dream. People's faith in the concept does seem to be fading.

A Pew Research Center poll released Monday found 63 percent say "most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard," down from a high of 74 percent in 1999.

Another third say hard work is no guarantee of success.

— Jennifer Agiesta — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennagiesta

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ROMNEY ALL BUT IGNORED

The rivalry between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney calmed enough for Romney to give his one-time bitter rival a speaking slot at his nominating convention. It didn't calm enough for Santorum to have much positive to say about his Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee.

Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who was the final obstacle between Romney and enough delegates to capture the nomination, only mentioned Romney at the tail end of his speech on the first night of the party's convention. Judging from his speech, he still doesn't have a lot good to say about the man he once called "''the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama."

Santorum's speech script ran 1,150 words before he uttered Romney's name.

After? Just 28 words were scripted before Santorum exited the stage.

— Philip Elliott — Twitter http://twitter.com/philip_elliott

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'WE DIDN'T LET GO'

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told the story of his 4-year-old daughter Bella, born with a serious genetic condition. Doctors advised the Santorums that Bella wouldn't live long and they should "prepare to let her go."

"We didn't let go, and today Bella is full of life and she has made our lives and countless others much more worth living," he said.

In his speech to the Republican convention, the former presidential candidate related Bella's story to the party's anti-abortion stance:

"I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands in love to lift up all of God's children — born and unborn — and says that each of us has dignity and all of us have the right to live the American Dream."

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

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WHAT THE CAMERA DOESN'T SHOW

Ever wonder what really happens on the floor during a political convention? Is everyone really sitting there rapt, hanging on the speaker of the hour's every word.

No, actually. Big parts of the convention are taken up by kibitzing. It's the real action at conventions.

True, the delegates do pay attention to the speeches, and they cheer especially when a particularly good speaker comes on or when it's someone from their home state. But the aisles are also thronged with people talking, catching up with friends or buttonholing officials to get their ear.

And the walkways behind the arena are even busier — filled with people chatting, arranging meetings, grabbing food and looking for famous faces.

And unlike a basketball or hockey game, almost no one ever shouts "down in front."

— Sally Buzbee

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'I SHOOK THE HAND OF THE AMERICAN DREAM'

Rick Santorum, the candidate who waged the most persistent challenge to Mitt Romney's nomination, says campaigning across America convinced him the American Dream can be restored:

"Why? I held its hand. I shook the hand of the American Dream. And it has a strong grip," Santorum told the Republican National Convention.

"I shook hands of farmers and ranchers who made America the bread basket of the world. ...

"I grasped dirty hands with scars that come from years of labor in the oil and gas fields, mines and mills. ...

"I clasped hands of men and women in uniform and their families. Hands that sacrifice and risk all to protect and keep us free. ....

"I held hands that are in want. Hands looking for the dignity of a good job, hands growing weary of not finding one but refusing to give up hope."

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

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THE NON-EVENT?

Media strategist Fred Davis, who advised GOP Sen. John McCain in his 2008 presidential run, remembers watching the conventions with his parents "until my eyes couldn't stay open any longer." They were highly scripted even back then, but they somehow felt like more of an "event."

This year, Davis didn't even bother leaving his Santa Barbara, Calif., home to attend the Republican National Convention

"It's not getting more intimate," he says. "It's getting less."

Davis says the "worst speech I ever gave in my life" was one he delivered to a high school in Tulsa, Okla. His mistake: Working from a text.

Davis says making someone like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie work with a teleprompter in Tampa, Fla., "strikes me as a mistake."

"You have one of the great from-the-heart speakers in the world," he says. "Chris Christie will do fine, because he's a very skilled orator. But it won't be what it could have been ... and the reason is they want to control every word that he says."

— Allen G. Breed — Twitter http://twitter.com/AllenGBreed

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WALKER LOVE

Some Republican office holders are more popular than others with their party.

Each speaker Tuesday night got enthusiastic applause. But as Gov Scott Walker of Wisconsin took the stage, the Forum in Tampa erupted into a standing ovation. Walker is a hero to his party and to conservatives nationwide after surviving a recall effort in his state in a bitter fight with Democrats. Walker tussled with Democrats in his state over multiple issues, including collective bargaining rights for public employees.

— Sally Buzbee

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NOMINATION BY THE NUMBERS

The final delegate vote tally from the Republican National Convention on Tuesday:

—Mitt Romney: 2,061

—Ron Paul: 190

—Rick Santorum: 9

—Jon Huntsman: 1

—Michelle Bachmann: 1

—Buddy Roemer: 1

—Abstained/undecided/did not vote: 23

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— Stephen Ohlemacher — Twitter http://twitter.com/stephenatAP

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EMPTY STREETS

Downtown Tampa business owners once saw the Republican National Convention as an opportunity to make a profit. Now they're just hoping to break even.

That's because Tampa's streets are deserted, its restaurants nearly empty, thanks to a delay in convention activities caused by nasty weather, and tight security that makes getting around downtown akin to navigating a labyrinth.

"This has been a ghost town," business owner Jeff Morzella said Tuesday, standing outside his restaurant named FRESH.

Streets surrounding his locale were barricaded. The biggest source of downtown traffic for the past few days has been police officers on bicycles, but they have been eating at meal stations catered by outsiders, not local restaurants, Morzella said. Still, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is optimistic that by the end of the week, economic gains will outweigh losses.

"I think when we're all said and done with this, this will have a huge economic impact on the city," he said.

— Mike Schneider — Twitter http://twitter.com/mikeschneiderap

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IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

Americans listening to Ann Romney's speech Tuesday night may relate to her story of love and its challenges.

Though the share of Americans who are married has declined in the last half century, many have found wedded happiness and see love as the central feature of a marriage. A 2010 Pew Research Center/Time poll found that 93 percent of married adults said love was a vital reason they got married. And most single Americans said love was the most important reason to get married. In that same year's General Social Survey, 63 percent of married people described their marriages as "very happy."

Married women typically make up about a third of voters in presidential election years, according to exit polling. In 2008, they broke 51 percent for John McCain to 47 percent for Barack Obama. The group last supported a Democrat in 1996, when 48 percent backed Clinton, 43 percent Dole and 7 percent Perot. Unmarried women, though, break solidly in favor of Democrats: Seventy percent of them backed Obama in 2008.

Mrs. Romney's experience with breast cancer could resonate with a sizable share of the public as well. A Gallup/USA Today poll in 2011 found that 78 percent of Americans know someone who has had breast cancer. Nearly half of women have either had the disease themselves or seen a close friend or family member fall victim.

— Jennifer Agiesta — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennagiesta

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'A REAL MARRIAGE'

Ann Romney will take to the Republican National Convention stage to proclaim her marriage is just like everyone else's — contrary to glamorous depictions she's seen written about her and her husband.

"A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage," she says in excerpts of her speech released before its delivery later Tuesday. "At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others."

In the fairytales she's read, Romney said, there were never "long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called 'MS'" — multiple sclerosis — "or 'Breast Cancer.'"

— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum

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THE ALSO-RANS

They're long gone from the presidential race, but not totally forgotten.

Jon Huntsman picked up a delegate from Texas during Tuesday's roll call of states.

So did Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.

Even Buddy Roemer — the little-noticed candidate who ran this year first as a Republican, then as an independent — was rewarded with a single delegate when Texas doled out its votes.

Despite the hard-fought primary, Bachmann, for her part, professed no hard feelings.

"Congratulations to (at)MittRomney, Republican Nominee for President!" she wrote on Twitter, minutes after Romney officially clinched the nomination.

— Josh Lederman — Twitter http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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ROMNEY THE NOMINEE

The state of Alabama pronounced itself "on the move." American Samoa touted itself as "the only American soil in the Southern Hemisphere."

They and more than 30 of the union's other states and territories have already cast their delegates to Mitt Romney, and at this moment — just over two months before Election Day — he has been officially nominated as the Republican Party's presidential candidate.

New Jersey was the state that put Romney over the top. Romney is expected to accept the nomination Thursday night on the Republican convention's final night.

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