CONVENTION WATCH: Santorum, Mitt in the house

Associated Press
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum gives a thumbs up to delegates after his speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Around the 2012 Republican National Convention and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details to you:

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'WE DIDN'T LET GO'

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told the story of his 4-year-old daughter Bella, born with a serious genetic condition. Doctors advised the Santorums that Bella wouldn't live long and they should "prepare to let her go."

"We didn't let go, and today Bella is full of life and she has made our lives and countless others much more worth living," he said.

In his speech to the Republican convention, the former presidential candidate related Bella's story to the party's anti-abortion stance:

"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 — and says that each of us has dignity and all of us have the right to live the American Dream."

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

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WHAT THE CAMERA DOESN'T SHOW

Ever wonder what really happens on the floor during a political convention? Is everyone really sitting there rapt, hanging on the speaker of the hour's every word.

No, actually. Big parts of the convention are taken up by kibitzing. It's the real action at conventions.

True, the delegates do pay attention to the speeches, and they cheer especially when a particularly good speaker comes on or when it's someone from their home state. But the aisles are also thronged with people talking, catching up with friends or buttonholing officials to get their ear.

And the walkways behind the arena are even busier — filled with people chatting, arranging meetings, grabbing food and looking for famous faces.

And unlike a basketball or hockey game, almost no one ever shouts "down in front."

— Sally Buzbee

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MITT IN THE HOUSE

Mitt Romney is in the convention hall. He and his wife, Ann, are backstage before her speech to the Republican National Convention.

— Kasie Hunt — Twitter http://twitter.com/kasie

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'I SHOOK THE HAND OF THE AMERICAN DREAM'

Rick Santorum, the candidate who waged the most persistent challenge to Mitt Romney's nomination, says campaigning across America convinced him the American Dream can be restored:

"Why? I held its hand. I shook the hand of the American Dream. And it has a strong grip," Santorum told the Republican National Convention.

"I shook hands of farmers and ranchers who made America the bread basket of the world. ...

"I grasped dirty hands with scars that come from years of labor in the oil and gas fields, mines and mills. ...

"I clasped hands of men and women in uniform and their families. Hands that sacrifice and risk all to protect and keep us free. ....

"I held hands that are in want. Hands looking for the dignity of a good job, hands growing weary of not finding one but refusing to give up hope."

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

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THE NON-EVENT?

Media strategist Fred Davis, who advised GOP Sen. John McCain in his 2008 presidential run, remembers watching the conventions with his parents "until my eyes couldn't stay open any longer." They were highly scripted even back then, but they somehow felt like more of an "event."

This year, Davis didn't even bother leaving his Santa Barbara, Calif., home to attend the Republican National Convention

"It's not getting more intimate," he says. "It's getting less."

Davis says the "worst speech I ever gave in my life" was one he delivered to a high school in Tulsa, Okla. His mistake: Working from a text.

Davis says making someone like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie work with a teleprompter in Tampa, Fla., "strikes me as a mistake."

"You have one of the great from-the-heart speakers in the world," he says. "Chris Christie will do fine, because he's a very skilled orator. But it won't be what it could have been ... and the reason is they want to control every word that he says."

— Allen G. Breed — Twitter http://twitter.com/AllenGBreed

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WALKER LOVE

Some Republican office holders are more popular than others with their party.

Each speaker Tuesday night got enthusiastic applause. But as Gov Scott Walker of Wisconsin took the stage, the Forum in Tampa erupted into a standing ovation. Walker is a hero to his party and to conservatives nationwide after surviving a recall effort in his state in a bitter fight with Democrats. Walker tussled with Democrats in his state over multiple issues, including collective bargaining rights for public employees.

— Sally Buzbee

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WHO BUILT THAT?

"Big government didn't build America: You built America! Small businesses don't come out of Washington, D.C., pre-made on flatbed trucks." — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, addressing the evening session of the Republican National Convention.

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

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NOMINATION BY THE NUMBERS

The final delegate vote tally from the Republican National Convention on Tuesday:

—Mitt Romney: 2,061

—Ron Paul: 190

—Rick Santorum: 9

—Jon Huntsman: 1

—Michelle Bachmann: 1

—Buddy Roemer: 1

—Abstained/undecided/did not vote: 23

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— Stephen Ohlemacher — Twitter http://twitter.com/stephenatAP

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EMPTY STREETS

Downtown Tampa business owners once saw the Republican National Convention as an opportunity to make a profit. Now they're just hoping to break even.

That's because Tampa's streets are deserted, its restaurants nearly empty, thanks to a delay in convention activities caused by nasty weather, and tight security that makes getting around downtown akin to navigating a labyrinth.

"This has been a ghost town," business owner Jeff Morzella said Tuesday, standing outside his restaurant named FRESH.

Streets surrounding his locale were barricaded. The biggest source of downtown traffic for the past few days has been police officers on bicycles, but they have been eating at meal stations catered by outsiders, not local restaurants, Morzella said. Still, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is optimistic that by the end of the week, economic gains will outweigh losses.

"I think when we're all said and done with this, this will have a huge economic impact on the city," he said.

— Mike Schneider — Twitter http://twitter.com/mikeschneiderap

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IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

Americans listening to Ann Romney's speech Tuesday night may relate to her story of love and its challenges.

Though the share of Americans who are married has declined in the last half century, many have found wedded happiness and see love as the central feature of a marriage. A 2010 Pew Research Center/Time poll found that 93 percent of married adults said love was a vital reason they got married. And most single Americans said love was the most important reason to get married. In that same year's General Social Survey, 63 percent of married people described their marriages as "very happy."

Married women typically make up about a third of voters in presidential election years, according to exit polling. In 2008, they broke 51 percent for John McCain to 47 percent for Barack Obama. The group last supported a Democrat in 1996, when 48 percent backed Clinton, 43 percent Dole and 7 percent Perot. Unmarried women, though, break solidly in favor of Democrats: Seventy percent of them backed Obama in 2008.

Mrs. Romney's experience with breast cancer could resonate with a sizable share of the public as well. A Gallup/USA Today poll in 2011 found that 78 percent of Americans know someone who has had breast cancer. Nearly half of women have either had the disease themselves or seen a close friend or family member fall victim.

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

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EMBRACING 'CITIZENS UNITED'

Republicans have adopted language in their platform that would continue to dismantle restrictions on money in federal elections. They say the rights of citizenship don't stop at the ballot box, but extend to the checkbook as well.

That stance embraces the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which green-lighted unlimited, corporate spending in elections. But the platform runs counter to tighter rules passed in 2002 with the help of former GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

The GOP platform calls for raising or repealing contribution limits, which are now capped each election cycle at $5,000 for presidential candidates and about $30,000 to political parties. "Super" political committees, commonly known as super PACs, can currently raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash, but they can't coordinate with the candidates they support.

— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum

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'CAN WE DO BETTER?'

"We begin tonight with a fundamental question: Can we do better? The answer in my view is obvious: You bet we can." — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, addressing the evening session of the Republican National Convention.

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'A REAL MARRIAGE'

Ann Romney will take to the Republican National Convention stage to proclaim her marriage is just like everyone else's — contrary to glamorous depictions she's seen written about her and her husband.

"A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage," she says in excerpts of her speech released before its delivery later Tuesday. "At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others."

In the fairytales she's read, Romney said, there were never "long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called 'MS'" — multiple sclerosis — "or 'Breast Cancer.'"

— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum

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ON RIVAL TURF

Even in Tampa this week, President Barack Obama commands the stage — at least with fellow Democrats.

A handful of party heavyweights gathered at the Democrat's "war room" down the street from where Republicans are holding their national convention.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Obama for America senior adviser Robert Gibbs were gearing up to criticize Republican challenger Mitt Romney's policies when an organizer announced: "The president is about to speak on television, so we'll start after that."

Obama spoke for a few minutes about emergency response preparations to Hurricane Isaac, not politics, but when the speakers followed, each mentioned the hurricane before tearing into Romney.

— Peter Prengaman — Twitter http://twitter.com/peterprengaman

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THE ALSO-RANS

They're long gone from the presidential race, but not totally forgotten.

Jon Huntsman picked up a delegate from Texas during Tuesday's roll call of states.

So did Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.

Even Buddy Roemer — the little-noticed candidate who ran this year first as a Republican, then as an independent — was rewarded with a single delegate when Texas doled out its votes.

Despite the hard-fought primary, Bachmann, for her part, professed no hard feelings.

"Congratulations to (at)MittRomney, Republican Nominee for President!" she wrote on Twitter, minutes after Romney officially clinched the nomination.

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

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ROMNEY THE NOMINEE

The state of Alabama pronounced itself "on the move." American Samoa touted itself as "the only American soil in the Southern Hemisphere."

They and more than 30 of the union's other states and territories have already cast their delegates to Mitt Romney, and at this moment — just over two months before Election Day — he has been officially nominated as the Republican Party's presidential candidate.

New Jersey was the state that put Romney over the top. Romney is expected to accept the nomination Thursday night on the Republican convention's final night.

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BREAKING THE NEWS

He knows.

Mitt Romney's personal aide, Garrett Jackson, writes on Twitter that he and Romney's wife Ann have told Romney that the GOP has officially nominated him for president.

"Me and (at)AnnDRomney just gave the Gov news that he has officially been nominated," Jackson writes.

— Kasie Hunt — Twitter http://twitter.com/kasie—

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HERE COMES THE SUN?

—"Florida is the Sunshine State — well, most times." — Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, speaking before she committed the state's delegates to Mitt Romney, a day after Tropical Storm-turned-Hurricane Isaac passed through.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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A SPEECH, AND A SONG

Count Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina as a believer in corporal punishment.

Scott gave his mother much of the credit for his success in life. He said he grew up in a poor, single-parent home, but she used "tough love" with the end of switch to make sure he was on the right path.

"And my momma loved me a lot," Scott said.

Scott was one of the more entertaining speakers Tuesday afternoon. He completed his speech with a song dedicated to President Barack Obama.

"Hit the road, Jack. And don't you come back no more, no more no more," he sang.

— Kevin Freking — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKFreking

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CONVENTION WEAR

Republican delegates from Texas, fittingly, sport cowboy hats. Same goes from the Coloradans. Foam cheeseheads dot the Wisconsin section. Hard hats of coal mining vintage are the headwear of the West Virginians.

Many in the Michigan contingent are roaming the GOP convention floor in the famed maize and blue football jerseys of the state's flagship university. The name "Ford" — a tribute to the former President Gerald Ford — is on the back. Pro football's Chiefs get the honor from red-and-gold clad Kansas delegates.

No convention would be complete without those goofy oversized red, white and blue Uncle Sam hats, and a smattering of them can be seen as well.

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

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FINAL SALUTE

Just like the annual tribute during the Oscars to actors who've died in the past year, Republican luminaries who have died in the past four years get a final salute at the GOP convention.

Among those whose names will scroll on a convention video screen on Tuesday: Andrew Breitbart, Alexander Haig, Mark Hatfield, Jack Kemp, Charles Percy, Ted Stevens and Malcolm Wallop.

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

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NO LEMONADE STAND

"... Barack Obama thinks the government is at the center of the economic universe. He thinks that if you started a business, 'You didn't build that.' Well, how would he know? President Obama's never run a company. He hasn't even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand. So it's time for a president with real experience in the real economy." — Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaking at the convention.

— David Espo — Twitter http://twitter.com/DavidEspoAP

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RIVALS EVERYWHERE

Tampa is hopping with presidential candidates — the former kind. They're literally running into each other.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain, two also-ran Republicans, spent a good five minutes catching up in the convention center ahead of separate radio interviews. Bachmann straightened Cain's coat collar before they posed together for what he called "the shot of the convention."

Here's the caption Cain offered: "We ain't mad. We support Mitt and Ryan."

Also making the rounds Tuesday was former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was holding "Newt U" sessions at a downtown hotel all week.

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

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QUICKQUOTE: LATINO VOTE

"You can't just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate." — Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the Republicans. Villaraigosa is in Tampa as part of a Democratic effort to highlight his party's views during the Republican National Convention.

— Peter Prengaman — Twitter http://twitter.com/peterprengaman

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