Republican speakers toe economic hard line
TAMPA, Fla. (MarketWatch) -- Republican Party A-listers on Tuesday night sought to frame November's election as a choice about the size and scope of government as they introduced Mitt Romney to a national audience.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a GOP hero for taking on labor unions and then beating back a recall effort in June, told assembled delegates and a national TV audience that Romney understands that "people, not government, create jobs." It was a direct slap at Barack Obama, whose policies Republicans say are to blame for unemployment above 8%.
"We need someone to turn things around in America," Walker, whose speech drew some of the loudest cheers all evening, said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- loved by Republicans for his outspoken ways and budget-cutting zeal -- unleashed an attack on Obama when he spoke Tuesday night.
"Make no mistake," Christie said, without mentioning Obama by name, "the problems are too big to let the American people lose." But the effort to lay blame on Obama couldn't have been more clear as Christie ticked off a list of the challenges facing the country: "The slowest economic recovery in decades, a spiraling out of control deficit, and an education system that's failing to compete in the world," Christie said.
Ann Romney, wife of Mitt since 1969, gave a highly personal speech that was designed to help voters -- especially female voters -- connect with the former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital chief executive in personal ways they haven't before. Romney trails Obama in likability, according to polls.
"This is the man America needs," Mrs. Romney said. "This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair. This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard," she said.
Romney appeared briefly onstage with his wife after she finished her remarks. He is set to accept the party's nomination in a speech on Thursday night. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Romney's running mate, speaks Wednesday evening.
For the Republicans, the evening's lineup of speeches represented a double-barreled approach to their strategy for the fall homestretch. Romney's campaign must at once try to win over those voters still uncomfortable with the often wooden-appearing Romney, and keep those who believe he will be better at hastening job growth and a stronger recovery. Read about Wall Street betting on Romney.
Romney's primary-season rival Rick Santorum repeated a much-used Republican line about Obama gutting welfare's work requirements during his speech inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Obama's administration strongly denies that charge. It is issuing waivers to states which want to test out alternatives to the welfare program.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley kept up the pro-business drumbeat, recalling an effort by the National Labor Relations Board to close a Boeing (BA) plant in her state. The NLRB later dropped its complaint after Boeing signed a contract with the machinist union.
"Americans deserve a federal government that doesn't stand in their way," Haley said.
Walker, whose success in avoiding a recall fought over budget and labor issues made him a GOP hero, spent part of his speech harking back to the recall battle. Walker earned the ire of the labor movement, but his positions on organized labor dovetail neatly with Romney's. Romney charges unions with stifling companies' innovation and driving up costs.
Romney on Tuesday night received the votes of 2,061 delegates, more than enough to make him the party's nominee. Romney declared his candidacy in June 2011, making a second bid for the White House after he lost the run for the nomination he began in 2007 to Sen. John McCain.
Democrats will renominate Obama at their convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week.
The latest average of polls from RealClearPolitics shows the Republican nominee and the Democratic president in a virtual tie.