Republican Mitt Romney was making the first stop in his final push for the U.S. presidency in Louisiana, where he planned Friday to tour the damage of Hurricane Isaac a day after accepting his party's nomination with his most important speech to date.
Romney was to tour with Louisiana's Republican governor, Bobby Jindal. Isaac arrived seven years to the day after the devastating hurricane Katrina hit the area, but it was much weaker, with five deaths reported amid widespread flooding.
The slow response to Katrina's deadly chaos in 2005 hurt the presidency of Republican George W. Bush, and the campaigns of both Romney and President Barack Obama have been mindful of their response this time. Obama has not visited Louisiana since Isaac hit.
In his speech Thursday night, Romney told voters they can "trust him to restore the promise of America," but he offered few details about his plans to fix an ailing economy and a politically divided nation.
The former Massachusetts governor repeatedly brought the partisan crowd to its feet in the final act of the Republicans' national convention, which featured speech after speech lambasting Obama for his economic failures and promising to deny him a second term.
"America has been patient," Romney told millions in the nationally televised speech. "Americans have supported this president in good faith. But today, the time has come to turn the page."
Romney's speech outlined lofty goals — making the U.S. energy independent, slashing the deficit and creating 12 million jobs — but did not say how he would do it.
He also seemed to make light of Obama's concerns about the earth's deteriorating environment and climate change.
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family," Romney said in a mostly inward-looking speech that focused on domestic affairs.
Obama, who will hold his own convention with the Democrats next week, planned to visit a Texas military base Friday, exactly two years after declaring the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.
The normally reserved Romney capped the high-energy convention with a spirited and unusually personal speech, touching on his Mormon faith and recounting his youth. The cheers were loud and frequent, surely music to the ears of a candidate who struggled throughout the bruising primary season and beyond to bury doubts among many in his party that he is an authentic conservative.
Romney, for example, pledged to "protect the sanctity of life," a reference to conservatives' opposition to abortion, even though there are clear differences on the issue between him and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.Romney said this week he is in favor of abortion in cases of rape, incest and the health and life of the mother.
His speech focused more on the economy. "Now is the time to restore the promise of America," Romneydeclared to a nation struggling with high unemployment and the slowest economic recovery in decades.
Polls show Romney and Obama tied as they plan to spend the weeks before the November election in a handful of competitive states and meet in a series of one-on-one debates.
The race has come down to seven states that routinely fall into neither the Republican nor Democratic camp and are likely to determine the election. The presidency is not chosen by the nationwide popular vote but in state-by-state contests.
The campaign themes are mostly set. Romney depicts the president as a once inspiring but disappointing figure who doesn't understand job creation or Americans' economic frustrations. Democrats portray Romneyas a man shifting ever rightward in the absence of core convictions and a multimillionaire who can't relate to the middle class.
Hanging over the campaign is a big number: the nation's 8.3 percent unemployment rate. It is Obama's biggest impediment to a second term.
Strikingly absent from Romney's speech and campaign were detailed explanations of how he would tame deficit spending while cutting taxes and expanding the military.
Romney's speech omitted many of the sharp barbs that he and his allies often throw at Obama.
"I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed," Romney said. "But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. ... We deserve better."
The relatively toned-down rhetoric was a shift from Romney's taunt, only two weeks ago, of "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago."
Romney may have tamped down the rhetoric as polls repeatedly find that voters find Obama more likable.Romney's convention message was this: It's OK to like Obama, even as you fire him.