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After that’s done, the convention will reconvene at 7, with Boehner delivering the opening speech (“Where are the jobs?” he’ll ask, as he always does on such occasions — heralding the day’s “We built it” theme that Republican small-government is best for the economy.) Other speakers in the first hour include Rick Santorum, talking about welfare to fire up the socially conservative base; the top woman in the House GOP leadership, Cathy McMorris Rogers; and the party’s top African-American congressional recruit, Utah’s Mia Love.
Tune in on cable in the 8 o’clock hour for Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and four prominent governors: Ohio’s John Kasich, Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. The next hour is designed to make the most of the party’s limited ethnic diversity: Two non-white governors, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, senator-in-waiting Ted Cruz of Texas and former Rep. Artur Davis, a once-rising African-American star for the Democrats who has now defected to the GOP. (He’s also moved from Alabama to Virginia to look for an electoral comeback opportunity.)
The last hour of prime time (the only one the broadcast networks will carry) is devoted to the humanizing-the-candidate efforts of Ann Romney (a few minutes after 10) and the keynote by Chris Christie about 30 minutes later. (Even the New Jersey governor, who is fabled for orations as extemporaneous as they are plainspoken, has submitted to writing out his speech and having it vetted by the Romney message-makers.)
THE OTHER TICKET:
He then took off on a two-day campaign trip to woo college voters in three swing states. He appeared at a rally this afternoon at Iowa State and will speak at 7:30 (Eastern time) at a rally at Colorado State; tomorrow he’ll be outside the U-Va. Campus in Charlottesville. (Biden is off-camera in Washington.)
THE RAIN IS GONE:
By the evening news, Republicans will have their presidential candidate legally locked in place. By bedtime, with a mixture of familial soft soap and conservative hard edge, they will have taken their best surrogate shots at defining — once and for all — the investment-banker-turned-politician who remains remarkably enigmatic (at best) or chameleon-like (at worst) seven years after he first set his sights on becoming the most powerful person on earth. And by morning, no matter how profound or underwhelming the damage along the Gulf Coast, the GOP will have a sense about whether it’s making any inroads with the 1 in 10 voters who are going to decide who becomes president for the next four years. If the undecided start buying the two-pronged GOP elevator pitch — that Romney is less disconnected from the everyday world than you might realize, and far more capable of kick-starting the economy than the incumbent — then there’s hope for a Republican happy ending in 10 weeks.
The current polling shows the popular vote at a statistical tie, as it has been all summer, but the state-by-state map shows clearly that he can count on at most 191 electoral votes at the moment — meaning he’s got to win at least 79 of the 146 electoral votes from the 11 states that are still being contested by both the Romney-Ryan forces and the Obama-Biden re-election campaign. The conventional wisdom is that Romney’s essential building blocks for victory start with Florida (29 votes), North Carolina (15) and Ohio (18) and then some combination of Virginia (13), Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10) and New Hampshire (4). The longer shots among the tossup states look to be Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Nevada (6) and Colorado (9). The back-of-the-envelope math is that Romney’s best shot at picking the lock on the Electoral College is to win the votes of at least three out of every five white men — because Obama has regularly been polling at or above 50 percent among women, and 6 to 10 points better than Romney. Obama also has a 2-to-1 advantage among Latinos and a 10-point edge among the elderly.
The Tampa Bay weather for the delayed-by-a-day opening of the proceedings was summertime classic — blue skies, scudding clouds and hot, humid air. Operatives conceded in hindsight that the postponement had not been necessary at all, but defended the decision as prudently appropriate when the call had to be made. They were also palpably relieved that Isaac had skirted the convention city, and grew more cautiously optimistic this afternoon that the storm’s landfall would not be all that destructive — and that by the time Romney speaks Thursday his coverage will justifiably outdistance that of the aftermath.
The speculating game kicked off today after it was confirmed that, as expected, Rob Portman would take on the Obama role in rehearsals for Romney’s three debate appearances. It is the fourth time the GOP insider has taken on such a job: He first played Obama for John McCain four years ago, and he served as the both the John Kerry practice partner for Bush
has taken on such a job: He first played Obama for John McCain four years ago, and he served as the both the John Kerry practice partner for Bush in 2004 and the John Edwards substitute for Dick Cheney the same year. (It’s been known for a while now that Kerry will play the Romney role in Obama’s debate preparations and Chris Van Hollen will work to channel his fellow House Budget panel leader Ryan on the Biden debate team.)
TRAIL TIPS: (Arizona)
QUOTE OF NOTE:
More congressional campaign coverage is on Roll Call’s At the Races politics blog.
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