Mitt Romney officially clinched the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday when a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention supported his candidacy.
To roaring cheers in the packed Tampa Bay Times Forum, the delegation from New Jersey put Romney above the 1,144-delegate threshhold and a step closer in his five-year quest for the White House.
The formal nomination of Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, will take place Thursday, and his acceptance speech will wrap up the final night of the convention that had its agenda delayed because of Hurricane Isaac.
The storm churned toward landfall in Louisiana, but Republican officials appeared determined to stick to a tightened three-day schedule that kicked into full gear on Tuesday with official business and speeches accusing President Barack Obama of failed leadership and undermining the American dream.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus launched the litany of attacks, saying that another term for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will mean "four more years of failure."
In reference to Obama, Priebus said "he hasn't even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand." The nation needs a president "with real experience in a real economy," Priebus added. "Mitt Romney will be that president."
Other speakers swiftly followed the lead of Priebus.
"America's in trouble," declared Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, while congressional candidate Richard Hudson of North Carolina said, "You can't support Barack Obama if you want to stop the spending, stop the waste and stop the assault on our values."
Rep. Dan Benishek of Michigan complained that Democrats in Washington were "spending away our children's and grandchildren's futures," while Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina serenaded the president with a chorus of the Ray Charles tune, "Hit the Road, Jack."
At a campaign event in Iowa, Obama said Tuesday that he expected the GOP convention to be "a pretty entertaining show."
"I am sure they will have some wonderful things to say about me," the president said. "But what you won't hear from them is a path forward that meets the challenges of our time."
Romney and his wife, Ann, flew into Tampa Tuesday morning and arrived at the downtown convention site two hours before the proceedings were scheduled to begin. Ann Romney is one of the featured speakers Tuesday night, with the keynote address to be given by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Ryan and his family also arrived in Tampa early Tuesday afternoon.
Organizers acknowledged they were monitoring the hurricane, projected to make landfall in Louisiana as early as Tuesday evening, just a day before the seventh anniversary of devastating Hurricane Katrina hitting the state
Their concern is the perception of a celebratory convention atmosphere with colorful balloons and soaring rhetoric as a hurricane slams into the Gulf Coast, evoking memories of the havoc caused by Katrina and the ensuing criticism of the Republican administration's response.
However, Romney and Republicans are reluctant to lose any more of their best opportunity to define the candidate for the American people with less than three months until the election.
"He is a very shy guy. He is a humble guy. He doesn't like to talk about himself. That's who he is," House Speaker John Boehner said of Romney in an interview Tuesday with CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash. "But I've known Mitt Romney for a long time. Decent, honest, hardworking guy. And I think Thursday he'll have a chance to reintroduce himself to the American people."
The speech will give Romney a major chance to speak for himself, rather than be defined by either his Republican primary rivals or by Obama, Boehner said.
"He's been locked in this Republican primary and then locked into this battle with the president," the Ohio Republican added. "And as a result, people have all different kind of views of him. So I think Thursday night is clearly an important speech for him and I think he'll have a chance to reintroduce himself to the American people, most of whom are just paying attention now."
Mitt Romney clinches GOP nomination
Mitt Romney officially clinched the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday.
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