Enforcer Paul Ryan Clears the Way for Mitt Romney
Condoleezza Rice's speech won raves both in the forum and on Twitter.
GOP Vice President Nominee Paul Ryan at the RNC in Tampa, Florida (KTLA-TV)
The roster of speakers at the Republican National Convention boasted two of the party's foreign policy heavy hitters and rhetoric designed to appeal to voters who are still undecided.
Here are five things we learned from the convention's second night:
1. Romney's enforcer comes to play
On Tuesday, the GOP convention was about love (Ann Romney) and respect (Chris Christie).
But to the chagrin of head-scratching Republicans eager to take the fight to President Barack Obama, there wasn't much talk in the Tampa Bay Times Forum about the current administration in Washington.
Paul Ryan put those anxieties to rest on Wednesday with a lengthy, aggressive and systematic attack on Obama's record in office, with one question as the thesis: "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?"
Ryan, criticized by Democrats as the architect of a budget plan that would gut Medicare, went on offense on the issue in the heart of retiree-heavy Florida.
"The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we are going to stop it," he said.
There were also flashes of biography as the Wisconsin congressman tried to introduce himself to a country still learning about Mitt Romney's running mate.
But it was clear from his sharpened rhetoric that the Romney campaign sent Ryan onstage to make the case against Obama.
He described Obamacare as a cold "power play," condemned Solyndra as "cronyism at its worst" and said the president is "forever shifting blame."
Then there was this line, sure to be remembered for its trenchant appeal to younger voters who had hoped for more from Obama: "College graduates should not have to live out their 20's in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life."
Responding in a statement, Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Ryan "offered Americans 40 minutes of vitriol and a half-dozen previously debunked attacks, but not one tangible idea to move this country forward."
2. On weak spots, let surrogates shine
Republicans' nearly singular focus on the economy took a back seat Wednesday when Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the stage to talk foreign policy, a topic Mitt Romney makes little mention of on the stump and that has been largely absent from the national political debate.
Romney faces a solid foreign policy record from the current president, who voters consistently say in polls would better handle America's relationships with other countries if re-elected. In the latest CNN/ORC International survey released earlier this week, President Barack Obama had a 51%-44% advantage over Romney on foreign policy.
Facing those facts, the Romney campaign chose Wednesday to use conservatives with well-established foreign policy credentials to make the case that Obama has failed a test of leadership in key international hot spots, including in Syria and Iran.
"Unfortunately, for four years, we've drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership, traditions that are truly bipartisan," McCain said. "We've let the challenges we face, both at home and abroad, become harder to solve. We can't afford to stay on that course any longer."