Promising his traditional conservative policies will restore America's greatness, Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination and then prepared to campaign with his running mate on Friday in two swing states vital to their chances of defeating President Barack Obama in November.
In the most important political speech of his life, Romney on Thursday night evoked themes and imagery of GOP icon Ronald Reagan in describing to a cheering Republican National Convention a future of opportunity and promise for the nation after what he called the failed policies under Obama.
He recalled the excitement of the country in electing Obama four years ago, saying the president's campaign theme of "hope and change" had a powerful appeal.
"But tonight, I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" Romney said. "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."
While his own patriotism caused him to hope Obama would succeed, the president's promises "gave way to disappointment and division," Romney said.
"This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help we will do something," he said. "Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, 'I'm an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!'"
When Romney finished, clouds of red, white and blue balloons floated down as running mate Rep. Paul Ryan joined him on stage, followed quickly by their wives and families amid the cheers and confetti.
Storm-shortened convention concludes
He and Ryan will campaign together on Friday in Florida and Virginia, then head to Ohio on Saturday as Democrats prepare to hold their convention next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Romney's prime-time, nationally televised address concluded a storm-shortened convention that sought to galvanize the conservative Republican base behind him and frame the upcoming election as a referendum on Obama's presidency.
Protesters briefly interrupted him early in the speech, with one shouting "people over profits" in reference to the multimillionaire former businessman's career in private equity. The crowd shouted "U.S.A, U.S.A" to drown them out, and one was removed after a brief scuffle.
Ryan had energized the convention on Wednesday night with a powerful attack on Obama that championed conservative principles.
On Thursday, speakers, including Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, laid the foundation for Romney's highly anticipated speech that was intended to provide those Americans just tuning in to the presidential race with an introduction to the man and candidate.
CNN analysts called the speech successful in appealing to the base and showing Romney's personal side, but also said it was business-like at times and offered no new ideas or proposals from the candidate who has been on the trail for the past year.
"It had a lot of heart. It needed more soul. It needed more poetry," said CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, while Gloria Borger, the CNN chief political analyst, said the themes Romney emphasized showed what audience his campaign wanted to reach -- Obama supporters disappointed with the president today and women, who polls show favor the Democratic incumbent.
She and CNN Chief National Correspondent John King panned Eastwood's appearance, which included a comedy routine of a fictional discussion with Obama, as a mistake by organizers that detracted from the candidate's defining speech.
In his address, Romney provided a biographical look at his life, talking about his parents -- who both held or ran for political office -- and his Mormon faith. Earlier, members of his church gave testimonials to Romney's help and compassion during past crises, such as the early death of one couple's son.
A rose for his mother and raising five boys
Criticized for being stiff and impersonal at times on the campaign trail, Romney told stories of family life -- the single rose his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, gave his mother every day, and the incessant household noise in raising five boys. Paying tribute to his wife, Ann, Romney expressed admiration for the role of women in society in a bid to appeal to women voters.
Romney also injected humor, telling how he decided against approaching his church as a young man to invest in his new company.
"I figured it was bad enough I might lose my investor's money, but I didn't want to go to hell, too," he quipped.
Romney then focused on his ideas for ending the nation's economic challenges -- lingering high unemployment, sluggish economic recovery, and a chronic deficit and debt problem.
"Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us, to put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations, to forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be," he said. "Now is the time to restore the promise of America. Many Americans have given up on this president but they haven't ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America."
Focusing his message on the economy -- an issue that polls show him winning with voters -- Romney said the country's needs are not "complicated or profound."
"What America needs is jobs, lots of jobs," he said, arguing Obama offers only more of the same to people who "now believe that the future will not be better than the past."