TAMPA – Mitt Romney arrived here from Massachusetts on Tuesday and was formally nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, with his party quickly shifting toward reshaping the images that the country has of him even as their efforts competed for attention with a hurricane gaining strength and expected to strike New Orleans on Wednesday.
Ann Romney – his sweetheart, his best friend, and his most important political adviser – began trying to showcase a softer image of her husband, who has struggled throughout his political career to connect with voters on an emotional level.
“At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others. He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up,” Ann Romney planned to say, according to excerpts released by the campaign. “This is the man America needs.”
She also planned to challenge the notion that they have lived a cozy, picture-perfect life.
“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage,’ ” she planned to say. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer.”
“A storybook marriage?” she planned to add. “No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”
The convention got off to a delayed start, with concerns initially about weather causing organizers to cancel convention activities on Monday. The storm largely missed Florida, but was heading toward New Orleans almost exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
The National Hurricane Center said that Hurricane Isaac was “getting better organized,” and it was upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane.
Republicans were grappling with how to avoid discordant images that showcase a triumphant moment for their party and a destructive weather pattern along the Gulf Coast. The imagery will get more complex on Wednesday, when the hurricane makes landfall and Republicans start some of the most-watched speeches, with vice residential nominee Paul Ryan on Wednesday and Romney speaking Thursday.
But at least on Tuesday, the mood seemed to be festive.
Women danced in shoes that were designed to look like an American flag. The Texas delegates all dressed in matching large cowboy hats, and red, white and blue button-up shirts. People filtered through the convention gift shop browsing for a variety of new Romney-Ryan items like slap bracelets, hats, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and iPhone cases that have “Built By Us” on it (all items were, in fact, made in the United States).
The formal actions of the day involved passing the party’s platform and casting formal votes to nominate Romney as the presidential nominee.
“Mitt Romney is a good man. Mitt Romney is a smart man,” former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, a Romney adviser, said in his nomination speech. “Mitt Romney knows how to fix the unfixable and to help people perform to their highest potential.”
States then went alphabetically, with no state singled out for the honor of casting the vote to put him over the top. That vote ended up falling to New Jersey.
Romney flew with his wife, Ann, on Tuesday morning and was expected to be in the convention hall to hear her speech.
She started the day with an account that had been previously undisclosed about a miscarriage she had when she was in her 40s.
She told CBS’s “This Morning” that she got pregnant unexpectedly – because doctors had told her after surgery 10 years earlier that she wouldn’t have children again. But then one night she knew she was losing the baby. She waited several hours before waking her husband to take her to the hospital.
She also said that the youngest Romney son, Craig, who had always wanted a younger brother, was crestfallen by the news.
“I was home by the time he got home from school that afternoon,” Ann Romney said. “And he walked in the door, and he was about 10, 11 years old. And he fell on the floor and just burst into tears. And the poor little kid had been at school all day long holding this sorrow inside of him.”
The account is the type of raw, emotional, personal story that could help the new Republican nominee make more of a connection with voters.
Ann Romney said in the interview that she had several miscarriages. Mitt Romney, sitting beside his wife for the interview, said he had been unaware of the story about his youngest son’s reaction upon hearing news of the miscarriage.
“I hadn’t heard the story about Craig coming home from school that day and being so devastated,” he said. “I’m not surprised. He’s a very tender heart and a wonderful father today himself.”