Romney to conclude GOP convention with defining speech

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- Mitt Romney will accept the Republican nomination for president Thursday night, August 30th by asking voters to choose between what he calls unfulfilled promises of President Barack Obama and his promise to restore America's greatness.

In excerpts released by his campaign from what will be the most important political speech of his life, Romney will expresses themes and imagery similar to the oratory of Republican icon Ronald Reagan on his road to the presidency in 1980.

He will recall the excitement of the nation in electing Obama four years ago, saying the president's campaign theme of "hope and change" had a powerful appeal.

"But tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" Romney will say, according to the excerpts. "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him."

Romney will say that while his own patriotism caused him to hope Obama would succeed, "his promises gave way to disappointment and division."

"This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help we will do something," he will say, according to the excerpts. "Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, "I'm an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!"

The prime-time, nationally televised address will conclude the storm-shortened convention that sought to galvanize the conservative Republican base behind Romney and frame the upcoming election as a referendum on Obama's presidency.

Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, energized the convention Wednesday night with a powerful attack on Obama that championed conservative principles, setting the stage for Romney's highly anticipated speech intended to provide Americans just tuning in to the election campaign with an introduction to the man and candidate.

The speech will provide a biographical look at Romney's life, talking about his parents -- who both held or ran for political office -- and his Mormon faith and how they shaped his life, the excerpts show.

"Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us, to put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations, to forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be," Romney will say ."Now is the time to restore the promise of America. Many Americans have given up on this president but they haven't ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America."

Focusing his message on the economy -- an issue that polls show him winning with voters -- Romney will say the country's needs are not "complicated or profound."

"What America needs is jobs, lots of jobs," he will say.

Arguing Obama offers more of the same to people who "now believe that the future will not be better than the past," Romney will say he is running for president to "help create a better future."

He will repeat campaign-tested promises to repeal Obama's 2010 health care reforms detested by Republicans, increase domestic oil production, reduce government regulations and cut taxes on businesses. Romney also will pledge to assert U.S. might and influence around world, saying "we will honor America's democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world."

"If I am elected president of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future," Romney will say. "That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight."

A Romney campaign adviser told reporters Thursday morning that speakers on the final evening of the convention will focus on telling Romney's "personal story," beyond the prevalent image so far of the multimillionaire businessman and former Massachusetts governor waging a five-year quest for the White House.

Scheduled speakers include former business associates, three people who worked alongside Romney in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, said Romney strategist Russ Schriefer. In addition, a GOP source confirmed that actor/director Clint Eastwood would be the "mystery speaker" teased by organizers.

Notable Republican leaders who will address the crowd before Romney include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Schriefer said. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a conservative Hispanic-American considered a rising star in the Republican Party, will introduce Romney.

For Romney, 65, the nomination puts him within one step of the goal he first sought in 2007 by running for president after serving as a Republican governor for four years in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts.

Though rivals including Gingrich challenged his conservative credentials in the 2012 primaries, Romney emerged victorious. Now he continues to walk a political tightrope in trying to energize right-wing support while also appealing to moderates and independent voters.

On Wednesday, Ryan used the biggest speech of his still young political career to tell the party faithful and the American public Wednesday that time is running out to solve the nation's fiscal problems, but the GOP ticket can do it if elected.

"We will not duck the tough issues -- we will lead," Ryan said in his primetime address televised nationwide. "... The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of us -- all of us, but we can do this. We can do this. Together, we can do this."

Republicans at the Tampa Bay Times Forum punctuated Ryan's speech with frequent cheers and ovations, showing he delivered the kind of political red meat they craved as the campaign heads into the stretch drive with the race very close.

"He really did blow the roof off this place," said CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, labeling the performance "the tee-up for Mitt Romney tomorrow."

Romney chose Ryan, the conservative House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin, as his running mate in hopes that the fiscal expert known for big and hard-line ideas would strengthen support on the political right and appeal to moderates and independents seeking solutions for the nation's chronic deficit and debt problems.

Focus on fiscal issues

Ryan, 42, focused mostly on the fiscal issues that are his strength, such as the national debt, stimulus spending under Obama and his proposed Medicare reforms that would partially privatize the government health care system for senior citizens.

Obama and Democrats have attacked the Ryan plan, and he sought to turn the tables on the issue by repeating the factually challenged assertion that the president cut Medicare by more than $700 billion to cover the costs of the 2010 health care reform law passed by Democrats.

The figure comes from a July 24 Congressional Budget Office report that said repealing the health care law, as called for by Romney and Ryan, would increase spending on Medicare by $716 billion through 2022. At the same time, the CBO letter said keeping the law known as Obamacare in place would not mean a $716 billion decrease in Medicare spending, as claimed by Ryan.

Independent fact-checking organizations have rated the Medicare cut accusation first made by Romney as mostly false. Ryan, however, said he and Romney welcomed the debate on how to ensure the long-term solvency of the popular entitlement program that is a key part of America's social safety net.

Democrats questioned the accuracy of other statements in Ryan's speech, including an insinuation that Obama was responsible for a General Motors plant closing in the congressman's hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin when plans to shut it down were announced before the 2008 election. Ryan also criticized Obama for rejecting a deficit reduction plan worked out by a commission that Ryan worked on and eventually voted against its report.

Asked Thursday about those issues, Ryan told CNN that his broader point was that Obama has failed to deliver on promises -- whether to help workers at that GM plant keep their jobs or develop a comprehensive plan to reduce the nation's mounting deficits and debt.

His speech Wednesday included some humorous jabs at Obama that drew laughs and ovations from a charged convention crowd.

"With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money, and he's pretty experienced at that," Ryan said early in the speech. Later, Ryan received a standing ovation when he asked: "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?"

In the most emotional moment, Ryan paid tribute to his mother, who started her own business after his father died.

"It was a new life, and it transformed my mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn't just in the past," Ryan said. "Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my mom is my role model."

In the VIP box of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Ryan's mother, Betty, stood and waved, and he touched his heart with his hand while gazing at her.

America's role in the world

Romney and Republicans contend that Obama's policies, such as stimulus spending, have worsened an already bad economic situation the president inherited from the previous GOP administration of President George W. Bush. They propose traditional conservative policies to shrink government, cut taxes and drastically reform entitlements, which they say will bring economic growth and job creation.

Obama and Democrats say such prescriptions are failed policies of the past and call for increased revenue sources such as higher taxes for wealthy Americans to be part of a deficit reduction plan that includes some spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

"On almost every issue (Romney) wants to go backwards, sometimes all the way to the last century," Obama said Wednesday at a campaign event in Virginia.

The president told Time Magazine in an interview made public Thursday that Democrats are not proposing radical solutions, and the nation doesn't need drastic changes.

"If you're willing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, then you can make modest reforms on entitlements, reduce some additional discretionary spending, achieve deficit reduction and still preserve Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in ways that people can count on," Obama told Time, later adding that the country needs "some commonsense solutions that stay focused on helping middle-class families."

"The only reason that you would have to go further than that is if there's no revenue whatsoever. And that's a major argument that we're having with the Republicans."

The convention is proceeding as Hurricane Isaac drenches the Gulf Coast after making landfall in Louisiana on Tuesday night, the eve of the seven-year anniversary of devastating Hurricane Katrina. The storm prompted Republican organizers to postpone the first day of the convention, which is a crucial opportunity for defining Romney to the American people.

Romney clinched the GOP nomination in the roll call of state delegates Tuesday after a rugged Republican primary campaign that saw momentum swings nearly every week and bitter attacks by GOP colleagues

The 2,200-plus convention delegates also approved a conservative platform that calls for less government, opposes same-sex marriage and endorses a "human life amendment" to ban abortion, with no specific exceptions for cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is threatened.

Personal stories of hard work, success

Throughout the convention, speaker after speaker has emphasized his or her own humble beginnings as descendants of immigrants who worked hard to achieve success for their families and never expected government help or handouts. Virtually every speaker took umbrage with Obama's comment on the campaign trail that "you didn't build that" in reference to successful businesses that received government help along the way.

The latest CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dead heat between Romney and Obama, with new numbers released Sunday showing that 53% of likely voters believe Obama is more in touch with their needs, compared with 39% for Romney.

Obama leads by an equal margin when it comes to being in touch with the middle class, and six in 10 say Obama is in touch with the problems facing women today, with just over three in 10 feeling the same way about Romney.

Romney leads 48% to 44% over Obama on managing the government effectively and has a 6-point advantage on having a clear plan for fixing the nation's problems. Both figures are within the survey's margin of error.

CNN's Kevin Liptak, Kevin Bohn, Paul Steinhauser, Dana Davidsen, Ashley Killough, Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh, Halimah Abdullah, Martina Stewart, Shawna Shepherd, Rachel Streitfeld and Mark Preston, and HLN's Ed Hornick contributed to this report.

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