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To GOP: Round up blacks for the camera

T-shirts other merchandise are displayed Republican National ConventiTampFla. Sunday Aug. 26 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

T-shirts and other merchandise are displayed at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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Updated: September 28, 2012 6:07AM

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be formally nominated this week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. It’s his first and best chance to tell his personal story and warm up before a national audience in prime time. (Did you know his real first name is “Willard?”).

The GOP ticket is still trailing the competition in national polls. Republicans must make a tricky pitch: Convince voters that the reserved, wealthy businessman can “save” America from a personally popular incumbent.

As the four-day confab kicks off in Florida, here are a few words to the wise men of the GOP.

You need a Plan B, in case Hurricane Isaac drops by for the festivities. Even if the storm skirts Tampa and lands elsewhere, TV viewers are likely to flip away to the weather channel early and often. A bunch of politicians sitting in a convention hall is no match for the drama Mother Nature can whip up.

Keep the rabble-rousing right wing on the plantation. Remember the crowd who kept Romney dancing during the primary season?

Don’t worry — they won’t let you forget. Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, the Ricks (Santorum and Perry), and The Donald. Romney’s people wisely declined to give most of them speaking roles at the convention, but where there’s a camera, there’s a way.

Round up the women folk and a preppy black couple or two. You’ll need some props to preempt the rainbow display of blacks, Asians, Latinos, LGBTQI’s, Wal-Mart moms and the multitudinous other demographic slices the Democrats will roll out at their convention in Charlotte.

That might be tough. Black voters, for example, prefer President Barack Obama over Romney by 94 percent to 0 percent, says a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Bury the Republican National Committee’s convention platform. It’s been Akin-ized. Missouri U.S. Rep. and GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin’s comment on “legitimate rape” has plunged the Romney campaign into a losing debate about abortion and women’s rights.

The platform calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. That view, an anathema to independent women voters, has been championed by not only Akin, but also U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s very own running mate.

Finally, it’s Etch-a-Sketch time. Romney desperately needs to reshape his stiff, gaffe-prone campaign. The convention will be his best shot to remake that image and convince Americans that he is a preferable alternative to Obama.

In March, at the height of the Republican primary battles, Romney campaign lieutenant Eric Fehrnstrom sparked a furor when he suggested his boss would run a different kind of general election campaign.

“I think everything changes,” Fehrnstrom said in an appearance on CNN. “It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Shake it up, baby.

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