TAMPA – After the candidates and their families had left the stage, but while red and blue balloons still bounced around the pulsing convention hall late on Thursday night, members of the Colorado delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention pulled down the towering sign that marked the state’s position on the convention floor and gathered around to sign it for posterity.
“We can do this,” wrote delegation chairman Sean Conway, a Weld County commissioner, above his signature, and then broke into a broad grin.
“That was the message that Paul Ryan gave us last night,” Conway said. “And Mitt Romney showed us tonight, gave us a path forward tonight, that we can do this.”
After witnessing the just-concluded RNC — mostly trimmed to three crowded days after a blooming tropical storm threatened the area but only brought some wet skies before slamming the Gulf Coast — Conway said that he was convinced that Republicans had nominated a winning ticket in Romney and Ryan.
“I think there were a lot of people coming down here this week really questioning whether this was attainable,” Conway told The Colorado Statesman, his voice scratchy and barely audible after hours of sustained cheering. “This last three days has given everybody the road map forward that we can do this, and given us the confidence. That’s what we needed. I think there’s been all these lingering doubts, in terms of whether we can unite as a party, whether we can come together and really do this — and we can do this.”
In his long-awaited acceptance speech — months into a see-sawing primary contest, Romney had the nomination firmly in hand by mid April — the former Massachusetts governor pulled back the curtain a bit and talked about his family life and his religion, broadening a message that has mostly been devoted to making a case that his business background gives him the skills to lead the country out of a sagging economy.
In a bid to connect with women voters — polls consistently show Obama with double-digit leads among women — Romney told an emotional story about a daily ritual adopted by his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who would leave a rose for his mother, Lenore, until one day he didn’t, and that’s how she discovered that he had died.
“My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example,” Romney said. “When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?’” Then, as emotions flashed across his face, he added that he wished she could have been here at the convention to hear the cavalcade of women governors and other leaders who addressed Republicans.
But the thrust of Romney’s speech was to argue that the promise of Obama’s presidency had been broken, and that it was time for voters to place the country in more competent hands.
Telling the audience that it was time to proclaim, “My country deserves better,” Romney acknowledged that Obama had taken office on waves of goodwill after a near-landslide election.
“Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. ‘Hope and Change’ had a powerful appeal,” Romney said. “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? 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.”
“He made the case,” said Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City. “And we’re going to take that over the next two months, and we’re going to make the case to the American people and the people of Colorado, that we have a plan to turn this country around. The last four years have been a failure, and we’re going to turn this country around. Our emphasis is on jobs and the economy, and that’s what Romney and Ryan’s emphasis is on.”
Grantham, who was elected as an unpledged delegate to the RNC and backed Romney for the nomination two days earlier, said the evening’s program, which included testimonials by Romney’s past business partners, fellow Mormons and others attesting to his fundamental decency, set the right tone.
Romney and Ryan, he said, “know family, family is important to them. The opponents can’t make the case that we don’t care about family, we don’t care about kids, we don’t care about education — that’s completely wrong, and we’ve got the candidates to show it, we’ve got the candidates to prove it, and we’re going to continue to make that case.”
Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, gave Romney’s speech similarly rave reviews.
“The whole message is coming through here that we need to get America back to work just by returning to basic fundamentals of finance and fiscal responsibility,” he said as fellow delegates nearly bounced with enthusiasm around him on the convention floor. “There’ll be a great contact between our Republican message and the inaction of the last four years. I think our Republican platform is as strong as any that we’ve ever had before — on specifics like getting America back to work again and getting America back on track.”
Delegate Ryan Call, the chairman of the state Republican Party, called Romney’s speech “tremendous,” and graded the entire convention a home run.
“It was serious, it was pointed, and it really, in my view, reflected the kind of principled, dedicated leader that he’s going to be,” Call said. “I was struck by the entire proceedings throughout this convention how the tone of the convention was one of serious, thoughtful regard to where we are as a country, and where we need to be. Anyone listening to this speech tonight or watching it at home, I don’t know how they can go away from this convention not recognizing that this is a man who loves America, who cares about the people of America, and is prepared to lead them, and in a way that we haven’t seen the current administration do. America really does deserve a president who will lead with courage and conviction, and in a way that inspires and unites rather than divides, and this was an inspirational speech, it really did an exceptional job.”
Call said that the convention had energized Colorado Republicans, who had been laying the groundwork for the kind of voter-contact and turnout operation usually associated with state Democrats.
“We are ready to hit the ground after this convention,” he said. “You’re going to see a new, renewed level of dedication, understanding the stakes of this election are incredibly high for America and for each of our own families, the kind of future we want to give to our kids, and we’re ready to do it. We’ve got a terrific operation in place on the ground. I have every confidence that we’ll be able to deliver Colorado’s nine electoral votes and help change the course of America.”