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Ann Romney sings husband’s praises; Christie goes after Obama

Updated: September 30, 2012 6:25AM

TAMPA — The person who knows Mitt Romney the best — his wife, Ann — on Tuesday told the nation about their love story and how he is a man who will “move heaven and earth” to “make this country a better place to live.”

If Mrs. Romney’s job was to portray the softer side of her husband on a day Romney clinched the GOP nomination for president, the dirty work was handed off to two harder-hitting critics of President Barack Obama.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the man who ended up being Romney’s most formidable primary challenger, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, both tore into Obama as a man whose White House tenure — especially on the economy and job creation — has not earned him a second term.

Wearing a bright red dress, looking youthful and glamorous at 63, Mrs. Romney triggered a roar when she walked on the convention stage, smiling and waving to the crowd of delegates, some waving signs that read “Women Love Mitt.”

Mrs. Romney said she did not want to talk about politics or the party — crafting a speech designed to appeal to the women of America — as Romney faces a wide gender gap. She also directly invoked their Mormon religion — a subject not often mentioned — as she told of her being a young Episcopalian in love with a Mormon.

“I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago, and the profound love I have, and I know we share for this country,” she said. “I want to talk about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it, the love we have for our children and our children’s children.”

She was personal and embraced with gusto her task of humanizing Romney, de-emphasizing their enormous wealth and depicting her husband of 42 years as a man so humble he will not brag about himself.

So she did it for him.

“We are no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don’t do it so that others will think more of them. They do it because there is no greater joy. Give, and it shall be given unto you,” she said, provoking loud applause.

It was Ann Romney’s first time using a teleprompter, but she did slip in some ad libs, campaign officials said.

When Ann Romney’s speech concluded shortly after 9:30 Chicago time, the former Massachusetts governor joined his wife on stage for a cameo convention appearance, holding hands, waving to the crowd, mouthing “thank you” and delivering a kiss on her lips that almost seemed perfunctory.

If Ann Romney told a love story, it was left to Christie to talk about how middle-class America has declined on Obama’s watch, which he described as “an era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office.”

Christie, a political pit bull normally known for his brash and bullying tone, did not mention Obama’s name and didn’t stray from the teleprompter in making the case that president’s policies haven’t been driven so much by deeply held beliefs but rather by the latest poll.

“Our ideas are right for America, and their ideas have failed America,” Christie told the crowd of roughly 20,000 Republicans, which was brought to its feet over and over as he gave an us-versus-them contrast between the parties.

“There’s only one thing missing now: leadership,” Christie said, taunting Obama to wild applause as Romney sat in the audience next with his wife on one side and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the other.

“It takes leadership you don’t get from reading a poll. You see, Mr. President, real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls. That’s what we need to do now. Change polls through the power of our principles,” Christie said.

Of Obama, whom Republicans have derided as a mere celebrity president, Christie said, “We need politicians that care more about doing something and less about being something.”

Santorum, the last viable Romney primary rival, spoke ahead of Christie and Mrs. Romney and sung the praises of the former Massachusetts governor in a speech that threw plenty of red meat to the conservative wing of the party.

In his speech affirming Romney’s anti-abortion credentials, Santorum paid homage to the rights of children “born and unborn,” referring in part to the saga of his ailing daughter, Bella, who suffers from a genetic disorder akin to Down syndrome. In Massachusetts, Romney supported abortion rights.

“In November, we have a chance to vote for life and liberty, not dependency. A vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will put our country back in the hands of leaders who understand what America can and for the sake of our children must be to keep the dream alive.”

In the end, it was Mrs. Romney’s sensitive portrayal of her husband that stole the first night of the storm-shortened convention, melding the personal with the political as she spoke of the man with whom she had her first date 47 years ago.

“You can trust Mitt,” she said. “He loves America. He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance. Give him that chance. Give America that chance.”

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