CONVENTION WATCH: Romney's big night approaches

Associated Press
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney looks over the podium during a sound check at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.

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POLICE-PROTESTER LOVE?

As the Republican National Convention wears on, protesters are getting worn out.

The busloads of protesters — who are staying at a makeshift camp dubbed "Romneyville" — have seen their food and water supplies dwindle. Law enforcement has noticed, as well.

So on Thursday morning, police brought boxed lunches of sandwiches, fruits and ice-cold water to Romneyville. Chief Jane Castor said police had extra food, so they decided to donate it rather than throw it out.

Castor, during a morning news conference, said simply: "We're here to serve the public."

— Tamara Lush — Twitter http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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WHO'S TUNING IN

Sure, political conventions aim to fire up the die-hard partisans in the arena, but they're also made-for-TV events designed to appeal to undecided voters. Recent polling suggests they may not be hitting their mark.

A Pew Research Center survey before the Republican convention began found just over four in 10 adults were interested in following each party's convention.

Partisans were most interested in their own gathering — 70 percent of Republicans were interested in this week's events and 66 percent of Democrats were interested in their party's upcoming convention. Fewer partisans check in on the other team: 41 percent of Democrats were interested in the goings-on in Tampa, Fla., while 28 percent of Republicans were interested in tuning in for Obama's re-nomination.

Among independents, just 37 percent said they were interested in the Republican convention, 36 percent in the Democratic one.

For Republicans angling for young, disaffected Obama voters, the convention may not be their best chance. Overnight ratings for the GOP convention suggested less than 10 percent of viewers were under age 35. The Pew poll found less than 30 percent of twenty-somethings were interested in the political conventions.

— Jennifer Agiesta — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennagiesta

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ROMNEY PREVIEW

In his big speech, Mitt Romney will make a direct appeal to voters who felt excited to cast a ballot for Barack Obama four years ago.

"If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" Romney says in excerpts released before his Thursday night speech. "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."

You've been let down, Romney's telling former Obama voters, by a presidency that lapsed into disappointment and division.

"Many Americans have given up on this president, but they haven't ever thought about giving up," Romney says. "Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America."

Riffing on Obama's 2008 catchphrase, "Yes we can," Romney plans to tell Americans, "Now is the moment when we CAN do something."

What can Americans do, according to Romney? Vote for him.

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

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POLITICAL FOOTBALL

There may be large swaths of a Republican stronghold otherwise occupied during Mitt Romney's big speech Thursday night. College football debuts at the same time, and that can trump anything else on TV, especially in the pigskin-crazy South.

The marquee matchup happens down in Tennessee, with Steve Spurrier's No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks taking on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville at 7 p.m. EDT. But the GOP probably isn't worried about losing interest or votes in either South Carolina or Tennessee, both of which are normally reliable Republican states in presidential contests.

— Jesse J. Holland — Twitter http://twitter.com/jessejholland

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TEMPEST OVER A TEMPEST

The Democratic Party chairwoman, who also happens to be a Floridian, is slamming Republicans' decision to continue with their Tampa convention as the Gulf Coast was battered by a hurricane.

She says it's an example of the GOP's "continued focus on winning at all costs."

"I will note that the parties, the special interest fund bashes that were not canceled, went on in spite of the fact that our state was getting hit and Tampa was in the path of the storm," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said at a press conference Thursday, when asked if Republicans had acted wisely by canceling the first day of their convention.

"I give them credit for canceling the first day," she said. "The way they handled it going forward as the rest of the region was getting battered - probably a challenging situation for them. There are other ways they could have handled it other than the way they chose. They could have taken things down a notch."

— Beth Fouhy — Twitter http://twitter.com/bfouhy

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IT'S ABOUT THE MOMENT

After watching the boss try out the podium and the teleprompters, senior aide Eric Fehrnstrom was in no mood to lower expectations. He predicted a great performance from Mitt Romney as he formally accepts the presidential nomination Thursday night.

"These speeches are just as much about the moment as they are about the words," Fehrnstrom said. "One thing we know about Mitt Romney is that he always rises to the occasion.

"This is the biggest speech of his political career. And I have no doubt that he will deliver the best speech of his political career."

— Steve Peoples — Twitter http://twitter.com/sppeoples

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STANDING O

Mitt Romney got a standing ovation in the convention hall — six hours before he was set to take the stage for his speech.

Romney and running mate Paul Ryan stopped in for an afternoon walk-through at the Forum in Tampa, Fla., where Romney formally accepts the presidential nomination Thursday night.

Delegates milling around the mostly empty hall stood and applauded for Romney and Ryan, both dressed in suit and tie.

The two paused for photographs near the podium with campaign staff, including senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and policy director Lanhee Chan.

After that, Romney stood at the podium while aides adjusted the height of his teleprompter.

Minutes later, they were gone.

— Josh Lederman — Twitter http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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SAY WHAT?

Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has proclaimed her support for the election of ... Barack Obama?

Clearly just a verbal slip, says her spokesman. The governor's skirmishes with the Obama administration over the issue of illegal immigration are well-known. At one point she was captured on camera pointing an angry finger at the president as they talked on an airport tarmac.

Brewer's surprising comment came in an MSNBC interview Wednesday at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., as she renewed her call for improved security on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Brewer said she was hopeful Obama would be elected in November so he could help come up with a solution. She didn't correct herself, nor was she prompted to.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said Thursday that the governor isn't the first person to misspeak amid the chaos of a crowded room.

For the record: Brewer continues to endorse Republican Mitt Romney for president.

— Felicia Fonseca — Twitter http://twitter.com/FonsecaAP

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FUNEREAL?

At a thank-you luncheon Wednesday for campaign supporters, Ann Romney enthused that the convention has given her a chance to "see so many people you've known" over time.

"It's like going to your own funeral," she joked.

Maybe not the best metaphor.

— Nancy Benac — Twitter http://twitter.com/nbenac

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COUSIN WHO?

On his big speech day, Mitt Romney spent the morning visiting with family — family in the triple digits.

"About 120 of our family gathered," Romney told campaign donors gathered in a banquet hall in St. Petersburg. "And it's amazing how the families come together in times like this. We got our pictures taken with some members we hadn't seen in a long time. It was heartwarming."

— Nancy Benac — Twitter http://twitter.com/nbenac

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ROMNEY PREGAME

No matter what GOP nominee Mitt Romney says Thursday night, it'll join the reel of history.

In that spirit, the public affairs-focused cable channel C-SPAN warmed up its audience Thursday with a trip down convention memory lane.

C-SPAN aired convention addresses of Republican nominees past, starting with Barry Goldwater's "renew freedom's vision" speech at San Francisco's Cow Palace Arena in 1964. Throughout the afternoon, viewers could see archived remarks of Richard Nixon in 1968, Ronald Reagan in 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2000.

— Brian Bakst — Twitter http://twitter.com/Stowydad

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A NEW STAGE

Mitt Romney's convention planners transformed part of the Forum overnight, getting ready for the big finale — the presidential nominee's speech to the nation.

They extended the stage about 12 feet out into the crowd and surrounded the bottom of the steps with a see-through barrier. They're still drilling and working on it, and the podium is gone at the moment. A bunch of people are testing the stability of the new stage now. Currently, the center seats are gone, but there's still a space where they haven't put down new carpeting and it looks like the seats will go there.

— Julie Mazziotta — Twitter http://twitter.com/julietmazz

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A GHOSTLY PRESENCE

Former President George W. Bush may be a ghostly presence at the Republican National Convention, but his brother expects him to get top billing, of sorts, next week.

"He'll be more at the Charlotte convention," joked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on "CBS This Morning." He was referring to the Democratic National Convention that begins Tuesday and is likely to feature lots of George Bush-bashing.

Jeb Bush acknowledges that his brother has been a target because voters blame him for the nation's economic problems. The former president has held no place of honor at the GOP convention other than a video tribute.

That doesn't mean he isn't tuning in to the convention.

"I think he's watching it, and I know he's interested in it," Jeb Bush said. "He's curious about this country. But his attitude is, 'Look, I had a chance, I served, I did my best. It's Mitt Romney's night. It's his turn.'"

— Hope Yen

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MEET REINCE

David Letterman wants to help people get to know Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus.

He couldn't resist milking some jokes out of that intriguing name.

So Letterman put together a gauzy little biographical segment about Priebus for Wednesday night's "Late Show."

All you need to know:

"Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. He's a lawyer and a former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. He has four brothers: Roink, Rurch, Remp and Rift. Now you know Reince Priebus."

— Nancy Benac — Twitter http://twitter.com/nbenac

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BE NICE

President Barack Obama has some nice things to say about Mitt Romney. Really.

He got asked by Time magazine whether there were things "that you actually do admire" about the GOP nominee.

And the Time interviewer specifically asked for something other than the usual dodges about Romney having a nice family and working on health care in Massachusetts.

Here's what Obama came up with:

"He strikes me as somebody who is very disciplined. And I think that that is a quality that obviously contributed to his success as a private equity guy. I think he takes his faith very seriously. And as somebody who takes my Christian faith seriously, I appreciate that he seems to walk the walk and not just be talking the talk when it comes to his participation in his church."

— Nancy Benac — Twitter http://twitter.com/nbenac

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LATE-NIGHT MITT

The voters Mitt Romney most needs to connect with during Thursday's acceptance speech aren't in the Republican National Convention hall. They're swing voters in their living rooms in places like Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

Romney, now the official GOP nominee, takes the stage in the 10 o'clock hour in Tampa, Fla.

Of the states deemed most competitive for the fall, four are in the Eastern time zone: Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. Two are an hour behind in the Central time zone: Iowa and Wisconsin.

Romney's speech will be delivered in the 8 p.m. hour in Colorado and the 7 p.m. hour in Nevada.

— Brian Bakst — Twitter http://twitter.com/Stowydad

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