James Richardson is an Atlanta-based Republican operative and editor of GeorgiaTipsheet.com. Each day this week he'll be reporting on the highs and lows of the Republican National Convention from Tampa. All photos are by CL photo editor Joeff Davis. The Day 3 gallery is at the bottom of this post. Joeff's weeklong photo gallery wrap-up will run Friday.
Mitt Romney has delivered thousands of speeches in a lifetime of campaigning, delicately manicuring a resume and presence expected of a president, but his address Thursday to an audience of millions will be the most consequential of his life.
Despite having constricted the scope of his campaign to jobs and the economy, he is under tremendous pressure to bridge the gulf between his C-suite identity and a softer self-portrait to which independent women can relate.
That foundation was laid earlier this week by his two chief surrogates, his wife, Ann Romney, and Paul Ryan, his running mate. But ultimately voters must connect with the candidate, not his proxies. It's make or break.
In unusually-intimate terms for a candidate notoriously private, Romney is expected to deliver tonight a deeply personal counter narrative — a forced rejoinder to the months of volleys he sustained from rivals as an aloof corporate raider uncommitted to the pocketbook pains of middle America.
WHAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT: Last night Ryan formally accepted his party's nomination for vice president, but the best reviews were earned by another: former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who effectively laid a marker for a future presidential campaign. Her nuanced speech Wednesday was both wonky and raw, fiercely partisan and yet politically transcendent, outstripping the zinger-heavy offerings of Ryan.
HIGHLIGHT: Disgruntled Ron Paul's supporters bailed on the confab en masse following a perfunctory video tribute to the Texas lawmaker, loudly chanting on the long walk off the green zone-like convention campus. Frustrated with Republican convention bigs for an earlier removal of their compatriots from Maine, some 300 delegates and supporters chanted, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation." The protest went unnoticed inside the hall, but tardy reporters were seen running pad-in-hand to telegraph the commotion outside.
GEORGIA REPORT: Sam Olens stepped into the limelight Wednesday with a joint address with Florida counterpart Pam Bondi. The existential threat of "Obamacare" was a frequent, if not required, refrain for speakers here, but Olens and Bondi had a unique relationship with the contentious law: they had spent more than a year in the legal trenches upending it. "We know the Constitution limits federal power, but President Obama clearly believes those limits just get in his way," Olens, who spoke first then intermittently with his counterpart, said. "So he ignores them. Time and again."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT: Will Romney address his Mormon faith or revert to a no-details posture in which only generic religious platitudes of freedom of conscience are pitched? It's the biggest question, and one no one can answer definitively, not even the candidate: Romney himself will obsessively tinker with his speech until it's delivered.
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