TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Mary Fallin helped kick off the first night of the Republican National Convention here Tuesday with an Oklahoma rags-to-riches story, while former Sen. Rick Santorum spoke to the social conservatives his campaign attracted and Ann Romney portrayed her husband as a man committed to lifting up others.
Fallin mocked President Barack Obama as someone who believes the government drives success while countering that Oklahomans made their own way, first by staking their claims on the prairie and then by poking holes in it to find oil.
Eight years after the Land Run, in 1897, “a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money — not the federal government's — to drill Oklahoma's first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone,” Fallin said.
“By doing so, these early-day pioneers changed the future and the fortune of Oklahoma forever, and today Oklahoma is one of the nation's key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government — to the Department of Energy, to the EPA, the IRS or maybe even to him.”
Fallin's speech at the Tampa Bay Times Forum came just a couple of hours after delegates here officially nominated Mitt Romney for president and Rep. Paul Ryan for vice president.
The governor announced Oklahoma's delegate votes with remarks touting the state's low support for Obama and low unemployment rate. As Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett did here earlier, the governor also mentioned Janna Little Ryan, the Oklahoman married to Paul Ryan.
Not all of the state's delegate votes were counted Tuesday, as two supporters of Rep. Ron Paul's unsuccessful presidential campaign tried to vote for him even though they were committed to Romney. Their votes were not counted; another delegate was absent. Fallin cast 34 of the state's votes for Romney and six for Paul.
Harold Hamm's story
In her speech later, Fallin described the hardscrabble upbringing of Harold Hamm, who built an oil company now valued at over $13 billion. Hamm, Romney's energy adviser, is chairman and CEO of Continental Resources in Oklahoma City.
“Now Harold and his company are helping to power cars, homes and businesses across the nation,'' Fallin said. “Harold and other energy entrepreneurs have completely transformed the U.S.'s energy outlook. And with a President Romney, we'll end America's dependence on foreign oil and create even more American jobs.”
Hamm testified in Washington recently against an administration proposal to end certain tax breaks used by energy companies.
In Iowa on Tuesday, Obama continued to call for an end to “$4 billion of taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that are making a profit every time you pump gas. Let's give it to homegrown energy sources that have never been more promising.”
Obama said on an Iowa campaign stop that America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in 20 years and that the country was on track to emit fewer greenhouse gases in 20 years.
Fallin was one of several governors to speak Tuesday night, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a new era of truth-telling so Americans could confront their economic problems.
Santorum, who won Oklahoma's presidential primary in March and 10 other primaries or caucuses before abandoning his campaign in April, used his speaking slot to address some of the social issues that were a major part of his campaign.
He got a standing ovation when he said, “I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands in love to lift up all of God's children — born and unborn.”
Ann Romney, whose job was to help humanize a candidate viewed by many as stiff, talked about him as a devoted husband and father.
She said he has tried “at every turn in his life” to help lift up others. He did at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, she said, when many wanted to give up.
“This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair,'' she said. “This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard.”