TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for president here Thursday and delivered a withering critique of President Barack Obama's first term while claiming the qualifications to turn the economy around.
The former Massachusetts governor, whose nomination came after his second run for president, used his prime-time speech before a national audience to portray Obama as a failure and himself as a success, both in his private and public jobs. And he sketched an all-American personal background on a night when friends, family members, Olympic athletes, actor and director Clint Eastwood, and others took the stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to tell stories of his compassion and business acumen.
Romney made direct appeals to those who voted for Obama in 2008 and said that after the last four years, the nation's problem was simple.
“What America needs is jobs,'' he said. “Lots of jobs.”
Romney, 65, clinched the nomination months ago, and he and the president have been campaigning relentlessly across swing states like this one that are expected to decide what polls show now is an extremely close race. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, are planning to campaign here and in Ohio over the next few days, while the president will visit key states before heading to Charlotte, N.C., next week for the Democratic National Convention.
Romney, whose speech closed the Republican National Convention, said he had wanted Obama to succeed. because he wanted America to succeed but that Obama's promises “gave way to disappointment and division.”
Hope and change, he said, referring to the slogan of Obama's first campaign, “had a powerful appeal.
“But tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him.”
Romney vowed to repeal the 2010 health care bill — something he would need Congress' help to do — and said his own plan to create 12 million jobs includes making the nation energy independent, improving job training, forging new trade agreements, cutting the deficit and reducing business taxes.
The Obama campaign challenged many of the assertions in Romney's speech Thursday and said the Republican “wants to take us back to the failed policies of the Bush administration.”