Candidates to hit Ohio this weekend
* President Barack Obama will campaign in Cleveland and Toledo on Monday.
* Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be in Cincinnati on Saturday morning.
* Vice President Joe Biden will be in Lordstown, near Youngstown, on Friday.
With members of his own party counseling Mitt Romney to show a more personal side, the new Republican presidential nominee used the biggest speech of his life on Thursday to touch on his family and faith and to make a pitch for disappointed swing voters who no longer feel the “fresh excitement” of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Romney gave his acceptance speech after a parade of fellow church members, business associates, political colleagues and Olympians offered personal testimonials and actor Clint Eastwood made a surprise appearance. (Share your thoughts on the speech).
Calling unemployment a “national disgrace,” Eastwood spoke to an imaginary Obama in an empty chair at his side and said, “I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem.”
The emphasis on personal history was a departure for the normally guarded Romney. But the nominee didn’t completely jettison his reputation as a metrics-driven businessman. He called for a five-point jobs program that he said would create 12 million new jobs.
“Now is the time to restore the promise of America,” Romney declared. “Many Americans have given up on this president but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America.”
Speaking at the end of a three-day convention in which one Republican after another hammered Obama’s record on the economy and the $16 trillion national debt, Romney made few direct attacks on the incumbent.
Romney walked to the stage via the convention floor, shaking hands with delegates as Kid Rock’s Born Free blared over the Tampa Bay Times Forum’s sound system.
Romney spoke of growing up in a family that gave him unconditional love and where “my mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example.”
Romney’s father George was an auto executive who became governor of Michigan in the 1960s and sought the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. But Romney didn’t focus on that history.
Instead, with polls showing his support behind among female voters, Romney mentioned his mother Lenore Romney’s failed 1970 Senate bid and how “my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?’”
Romney, the first Mormon to be the presidential nominee of a major party, spoke after some of his fellow worshippers offered emotional tributes to Romney’s faith and friendship.
The biographical material was urged by many Republicans who said Romney needed to reclaim his own narrative after allowing himself to be defined as an uncaring CEO and technocrat by a succession of Republican primary foes and the Obama campaign.
While Romney and Republicans have attempted to draw sharp contrasts to Obama, Romney on Thursday tried to appeal to voters who supported Obama in 2008.
“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed,” Romney said at one point.
“Hope and change 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 said.
* Ohio delegate Peter Beck, who is a state lawmaker from Mason, said that Romney managed to reach out to women, highlight that small business is crucial to America’s success and made a good point when he said “In America we celebrate success, we don’t apologize for success.”
* Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said Romney talked about a lot of grand plans, but had few specifics on how they would work. “He talks about a plan to create 12 million jobs, but President Obama has had a jobs plan in front of Congress, and the Republicans refuse to act on it,” Owens said.
* Ohio delegate Keith Faber, a Republican state senator from Celina, said “Romney is right on the mark. It is time to fix America for our kids’ sake.”
* Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, challenged several of Romney’s claims via Twitter. She said Romney’s plan to create 12 million jobs is misleading because economists say America is already on a path to do that.
She also said Iran faces harsher sanctions under Obama than it did previously. And while Romney said Obama hurt the middle class, Cutter said Romney’s tax plan would raise the burden on the middle class.
* Ranae Lentz, a delegate from Bellfontaine, “He made me proud to be an American and a Republican. I think he has a plan. That in itself is great news to me.”
* Tom Niehaus, Ohio Senate President. “He’s only wealthy because he took a chance and succeed. America is about taking chances, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but ultimately succeeding.
Staff writer Jeremy P. Kelley and Jessica Wehrman of our Washington Bureau contributed to this report.