Mitt Romney’s White House campaign was back on schedule on after he was formally nominated as the Republican presidential candidate and the party’s national convention managed to complete a full day of business.
He was bolstered by a deeply personal late-night speech by his wife Ann. It ended with a surprise appearance from Romney to congratulate her with a tentative kiss.
But hurricane Isaac again disrupted what had been intended to be a smoothly run, carefully choreographed effort to present Romney anew to US voters at the start of the election campaign proper. Isaac’s landfall on the Louisiana coastline was the opening story on all the major networks on Tuesday, the second night in a row that the convention was bumped off top spot.
Opening her late-evening primetime speech, Ann Romney acknowledged the hurricane, expressing hope that there would be no loss of life or damage to property, as did her husband’s campaign managers, fearful of the impact it would have on the remainder of the convention.
She delivered a personal and sentimental speech aimed at humanising a candidate often viewed as wooden. The speech was also crafted to appeal to women, an attempt to close the formidable gap between Romney and Barack Obama with female voters.
"Tonight I want to talk to you about love," she said, before going on to offer details about her marriage and family. She said it had not been a storybook marriage: they had suffered misfortunes. It was, she said, "a real marriage".
She cast him as a caring individual who provided help to people in need. Romney did not like to speak about helping people, she said. He was a private person. "He sees it as a priority, not a political talking point."
She defended his record as a businessman and even referred to the sensitive issue of his Mormonism.
But her main target was women and she did not attempt to disguise her intent, telling the convention: "I love you women." She added women were the best of America.
The convention wound up at 11pm with a relatively subdued speech from the normally combative New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. He said Americans needed to elect Romney as president to ensure that coming generations "live in a second American century".
He described Romney and the Republicans as "prepared to tell the American people the truth", in contrast with Obama and the Democrats. "Their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power," Christie said.
On the convention floor many delegates were yet to be won over by Romney, admitting he was not much of a campaigner but optimistic that the anti-Obama sentiment in the country will be the deciding factor on election day.
Romney was formally nominated after a theatrical roll-call of delegates, with each state announcing votes for Romney or his last remaining challenger, the libertarian Ron Paul. When Romney finally passed the 1,144 magic number of delegates needed for the nomination there was a loud cheer from the hall.
Earlier there was a minor revolt by delegates, mainly from Texas and Maine, over changes to party rules. It fizzled out but did briefly show up the fissure in the modern Republican party between the party establishment and grassroots Tea party-inspired activists.
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