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Parade of Would-Be Romney VPs Advocate for Nominee

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got the warmest response of the night from the crowd at the Republican National Convention as it awaited vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's acceptance speech.

TAMPA, Fla. - Sen. Rob Portman strode onto the stage at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night and made light of how close he came to delivering a very different speech as he advocated for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"They say I was on Gov. Romney's short list of vice presidential candidates," the Ohio Republican said. "Apparently, it wasn't short enough."

Portman was joined at the Tampa Bay Times Forum by a who's who of former White House contenders and speculated running mate shortlisters, who all voiced support for Romney.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, floated by the influential Drudge Report website as a potential VP pick, got the warmest response of the night from the crowd as it awaited vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's acceptance speech.

Delegates chanted "Con-dee, Con-dee, Con-dee" as the Birmingham native took the stage to the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Alabama."

Rice praised Romney, but she never attacked President Barack Obama by name. The speech began by focusing on foreign policy, but Rice went on to broader American themes.

"That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things," she said. "That it doesn't matter where you came from, but it matters where you are going."

Rice talked about growing up in the segregated Deep South.

"A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham," Rice said. "Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they had her absolutely convinced that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she can be president of the United States - and she becomes the secretary of State," she said to heavy applause.

Rice was a tough act to follow, but New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez delivered a well-received speech, telling her personal and political story. Martinez was also light on criticism of Obama, but there was lots of that earlier in the night.

"Barack Obama's failed us," former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "But look, it's understandable. A lot of people fail at their first job," zinged the former 2012 White House hopeful.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran against Romney in the 2008 GOP primary, knocked the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee with a harsher joke.

"Tampa has been such a wonderful and hospitable city to us. But the only hitch in an otherwise perfect week was the awful noise coming from the hotel room next door to mine," he said. "Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman Schultz practicing her speech for the DNC in Charlotte next week. Bless her heart," he said, referring to the Florida Member.

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