When Mitt Romney addresses the Republican convention Thursday night,… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
Mitt Romney must be getting used to this by now.
The former Massachusetts governor is slated to give the biggest speech of his political career Thursday night when he accepts the Republican nomination for president at the party's convention in Tampa. But Romney has already faced a series of "make or break" moments in the elongated campaign. For example, the Florida primary on Jan. 31 became a crucial test after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) thumped Romney in South Carolina. Similarly, the Feb. 28 contest in his native Michigan had a do-or-die feel to it after former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) surprisingly swept the votes in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota.
Romney's campaign kept chugging along, in part because of huge fundraising advantage he held over his GOP rivals. Money won't be a factor Thursday night, however, when he speaks live from Tampa with the eyes of much of the nation squarely on him. And once again, pundits are saying Romney's fortunes are hanging in the balance.
VIDEO: Watch the Republican National Convention speeches
Polls have consistently shown him losing the "likability" battle with President Obama, with voters saying Romney is less in tune with their lives than the incumbent is. Worse, at many junctures during the campaign, more Americans viewed Romney unfavorably than favorably. Given that the likability contest is a good barometer of the election's outcome, one challenge for Romney tonight will be to close the affinity gap -- to persuade viewers that he not only knows how to grow the economy, but also understands their needs.
My colleagues Jim Newton, Doyle McManus, Michael McGough and David Horsey will be joining me on Twitter to comment on speeches by Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Gingrich and several others who'll be taking the podium Thursday. You can follow our tweets on Twitter or here, starting at 4:30 p.m. (PDT).
The right debate to have over 'We Built It'
Prayer for the godless party: Dems call Cardinal Dolan's bluff
McManus: Does Ann Romney really know what women are going through?
Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey