Delegates display signs in support of Mitt Romney at the Tampa Bay Times… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
Having formally nominated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to face off against President Obama in November, delegates at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday turned their attention to the more important items on their agenda: selling their party and their nominee to the general public.
The latter job will be entrusted to Romney's wife Ann, whom the campaign has relied upon increasingly to humanize the guarded candidate and provide a window into his personality. As for selling the party, that will fall mainly to the Republican "reform" governors who will take the podium. The lineup includes Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich, both of whom championed efforts to roll back public-employee bargaining rights, cut spending and lower taxes; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea-party darling who evidently isn't as popular with that crowd as she used to be; and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the chairman of the party's platform committee.
But the governor getting the highest-wattage spotlight, metaphorically speaking, will be New Jersey's Chris Christie, whose name once graced many Republicans' short list for president. The sharp-tongued Christie isn't expected to make the case for Romney as much as he is to press the one against Obama, devoting much of his time on stage to cataloguing the president's failures. But he also represents the GOP vanguard on education reform, an issue that Romney has embraced.
Also on tap are former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), whose campaign collapsed under an incessant barrage of attack ads by the Romney campaign, and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, now running for Senate in Texas. Santorum's appearance is a nod to social conservatives, Cruz's to the tea party -- both groups that were slow to warm to Romney. It will be interesting to see whether Cruz, a Cuban-American, makes an explicit appeal to Latinos to vote for Romney.
My colleagues Doyle McManus, Michael McGough, David Horsey, Patt Morrison and Dan Turner will be joining me on Twitter to comment on the proceedings Tuesday evening. You can follow our tweets on Twitter or here, starting at 6:30 p.m.
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Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey