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Ann Romney, Chris Christie deliver a strong opening evening at RNC

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers the keynote

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers the keynote address during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. (Aug. 28, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

So, overall for the Republicans, a fairly good first night. Not a slam dunk A-plus, but probably a good solid B or B-plus. Christie's speech was a very strong call to action, Ann Romney did exactly what she needed to do, and Artur Davis may be a rising star in the party, the speaker they've been craving for years.

Tune in tomorrow night when we see how they manage to follow up a pretty strong opening evening.

11:00 p.m. - This speech is very old school, gritty, self-sacrifice, do it for future generations. He's not promising a lovely time under Mitt. He's promising a tough slog as we seriously deal with our problems. I think this speech will grow on people. They may like it better a month from now than they do tomorrow morning.


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It's an interesting message for a Republican, of selflessness and sacrifice for the greater good, something the democrats have more frequently preached.

"If we can do this in a blue state like New Jersey, with a republican governor, Washington is out of excuses," Christie says.

He says Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear. I think he has to, and explain exactly what he wants to do about them, If he wants to win this thing.

Says doubt and everywhere he goes.

"I have faith us."

"Real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls."

Good line, good applause, I agree.

Running off good applause lines, calling for the crowd to stand up. Asking them to stand up for America, stand up for the hard truth, choose the tough path stand up for Mitt Romeny as the next president of the United States.

Cheap way to walk off to a standing ovation but okay, he was going to get it any way.

10:51 p.m. - "Cut federal spending, and fundamentally reduce the size of this federal government," he says.

But Christie says the dems want to coddle Americans.

"Our seniors are not selfish," he says, "but they prey on their vulnerabilities, and scare them."

He is punching a "We believe" rhythm now in beach of his declarations.

Now it's "Here's what they believe."

"They believe in teachers' unions. We believe in teachers."

Reaction so far is good, but not great.

Click here to see Chris Christie's remarks, as prepared for delivery

10:46 p.m. - "Don't avoid truths, face up to them," says Christie.

Says New Jersey's problems demanded tough love, and so do the nation's. He says people said New Jersey's trouble's were impossible to fix, but they weren't. Gets pretty good applause for balancing budget and cutting taxes.

"Said it was impossible to speak truth to the teacher's unions. We did it," he says.

Argues that when politicians are honest with the people, the people damage the tough choices, share in the sacrifice, and make things better. I think that's a pretty good message. I'm not sure it's true today, but I'd certainly love to live is nation where it is.

Maybe we just have to make it true.

10:42 p.m. - Christie thinks American leaders are are paralyzed by a desire to be loved. Rather than being tough, strong leaders who take on the tough issues.

True. Democracy only works until people realize we can vote ourselves rich.

Christie says choose respect over love in our leaders, like his mom taught him. Interesting. Going to have to chew on that one. For a while. Quite a while.

10:39 p.m. - Christie coming on very affable, with stories about growing up with an Irish mother and Sicilian father. Crowd likes it, looking for laughs.

Telling his humble origins story tonight. Everyone that mattered tonight had humble origins except the Romneys, although Ann said they worked hard and money was tight early on. But the other speakers are clearly meant to counter the "rich Republicans" meme.

10:36 p.m. - Huge standing ovation as Christie comes out with no introduction escort the video about him, which stressed his humor and pugnacious attitude.

10:33 p.m. - She says of Mitt's financial success, "This is the genius of America."

Now reciting a litany of his successes, from the Salt Lake City Olympics to balancing the Massachusetts budget.

"This is the man America needs."
"This man will not fail."
"This man will not let us down, this man will it up America."
"Look into your hearts. This is our country. This is our future. You can trust Mitt."

Applause on every line, and another standing ovations Mitt joins her on stage to the strains of "My Girl."
Good, long standing ovation, and off they walk.

Followed by a video about keynotes Chris Christie.

Click here for a transcript of Ann Romney's remarks

10:28 p.m. - She says he's being attacked for success, doing a call and response with audience about whether we want to attack success, etc.

Apparently the appropriate answer is "no."

Says Mitt was not handed success. Cue the line: "He built it," to much applause.

Her eyes are glued to the prompter. It's tripping her up when she tries to look away.

But no matter. Everyone around me says they love her, whispering it to each other as if they're confiding a big secret.

10:24 p.m. -  About 95 percent of seats in the arena are full. Just some stragglers up in the nosebleeds not yet taken.

Now she's telling the story of the Romney courtship, young love and young marriagehaving kids quickly and being married 43 years.

Says she's still in love with Mitt, and he still makes her laugh, but it's no story book marriage, but rather a real marriage. Referenced her bouts with breast cancer and ongoing Multiple Sclerosis.

And she's transitioned to talking about Mitt, and his good qualities. No one will work harder, care more. Again getting significant number of clapping standees.

And she seems to be relaxing.

10:20 p.m. - Ann: " I have been all across this country, and I know a lot of you guys." Laughter and applause.

She's surrounded on stage, by enormous pics of family, black and white mostly, of her kids ang grandkids, and she and Mitt many years ago.

Taking some time to say she how much she loves women. Seems to be implying they have tougher lives and work a bit harder and worry a nit more than men.

Hope my wife isn't watching this.

"I don't think there's a woman in America who expects life to be easy," Ann says.

She's coming off smooth more than warm, but she also seems a little nervous, and people are sort of giving her the benefit of the doubt.

They desperately want to love her. They're shushing anyone who talks. Ann Romney is talking fast and you have to concentrate to make out every word.

10:14 p.m. - Takes a moment to hope and pray for those in path of Hurricane Isaac. Says she wont talks about politics or party. She wants to talk to us, from her heart, about our hearts, as Americans.

"Tonight, I want to talk to you about love," she says.

The love she has for Mitt, the love they share for the country for their kids and grand kids. And those in America facing tough times.

Crowd is quite quiet now.

10:11 p.m. - Ann Romney enters to enormous applause. Standing ovation, very sincere, pretty long too. Teen volunteers behind me saying, "She is so cute. She's adorable."

10:08 p.m. - Actually Puerto Rico Gov. Luce Fortuno, to introduce Ann Romney.

10:05 p.m. - Huge speech from Davis, huge crowd response, and here comes the governor of my former home, South Carolina, Nikki Haley.

Children of immigrants a dominant theme tonight.

"Dont tell me that my parents didn't build their business."

She has a tough act to follow in Davis, and she's losing the crowd a bit. Gets the crowd cheering for voter identification laws, though.

And the Boeing union/ NLRB fiasco with the federal government, which was a ridiculous and horrible move by Obama et al. The Feds tried to keep seattle-based Boeing out of SC because the state is non-union, without any basis in logic or law.

Luckily, the Feds failed, and 6,000 employees got good jobs.

Crowd definitely warming to Haley now. She has improved dramatically as a speaker over the past few years.

And now, Ann Romney is next.

9:53 p.m. - Davis is hammering Obama, to great effect. He's the first speaker tonight to get laughs. He's a nice, rhythmic speaker, in the "preacher-at-a-podium" tradition. He has shades of Jesse Jackson, something not heard at a Republican events since Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts retired from office.

9:50 p.m. - Former democratic congressman of Alabama, Artur Davis, up next. He's a party switcher in the Zell Miller, Charlie Crist tradition, who supported Obama last time around.

9:45 p.m. - Cruz: "We are seeing a great awakening, a national movement."

"Our rights come from God, and are secure only when government powers are restrained," Cruz said.

Referencing the Alamo. And it's heroes. Who were sort of fighting Mexico for the right to own slaves. Then references Martin Luther king Jr. Fascinating transition, albeit kind of a creepy one.

"We will not go down the path of Greece. We will not go quietly into the night."

Says Obama is a very talented man, with deep convictions, but a bad plan to deal with the economy. Stone silence from audience.

Gets them back a bit with "It's tragic how far we've come from 'hope and change.'"

Cruz is striding the stage, speaking without teleprompters. He's the first one tonight to do that.

Good for him. I miss the days when people could just talk about what they know, and believe, and hope.
It's not that hard.

Cruz rallying crowd with questions, can we take the Senate, repeal Obamacare, restore the american love story.

Gets chants of "yes we can," which is odd.

9:35 p.m. - Santorum gets biggest applause of evening so far, telling the story of his disabled daughter, how they decided not to abort her, and his total support of the pro-life stance. He received a standing ovation for wanting to apply the promises of the Declaration of Liberty to fetuses.

Standing ovation again at his finish.

Now Texas senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, serious Tea Party favorite.

9:31 p.m. - Santorum says Obama's policies undermine the family. He says Obama wants to remove work requirement from welfare: "Obama is trying to unilaterally change laws, and if he can, we will no longer be a republic."

He is holding the crowd a bit better than the previous politicos.

"I shook the hand of the American dream, and it has a strong grip," he said.

I'm going to have to chew on that imagery for a while.

I covered Santorum when I was a when I was a reporter in Pennsylvania. Trust me, no matter how intense you think he is, he's way more intense than that. He's a true believer, which is great for those who agree with him, and even some who don't.

I think Santorum got a lot of respect for sincerity during the campaign, even from people who think he's absolutely cracked on social issues.

9:26 p.m. -  Santorum brought his wife, 93-year-old mother and some of the kids.

Says of grandfather, "America believed in him. That's why he believed in America."

He says America is now a "nightmare of dependency."

Detailing a litany of Obama failure: "The President's plan didn't work for America, because that's not how America works."

He is making the link between poverty and poor social values, decisions. Children out of wedlock, lack of diploma, divorce, make you 38 times more likely to end up in poverty.

Says marriage is plummeting and it's a problem. Fairly sure he means straight marriage. Almost certain.

9:19 p.m. - Rick Santorum just hit the stage, waking up the crowd quite a bit.

9:16 p.m. - Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval: "We are a nation of immigrants."

Delegates on the floor milling, talking, very quiet up where I amid in the cheap seats.

People are ready for Ann Romney and Chris Christie. The hors d'oeuvres are getting stale, it's time for red meat.

"We must leave Tampa this week on a mission, to remind people they deserve more than the status quo," Sandoval says, ending speech.

Next up, Hispanic business owner Phil Archuletta of New Mexico.

Definitely some small-business owner fatigue in the crowd, although this guy seems to have a certain grandfatherly honestly about him.

9:09 p.m. - Country musician Lane Turner. I've never heard of him, but I know about as much about country music as I do about 14th century French literature. But the crowd isn't responding.

We need some more Oakridge Boys up it his place!

Gov. Brian Sandovalof Utah, up next.

Talking about his immigrant parents, father one of 10 children, modest means, simple lives, but more successful children. He worked his way through law school, dreamed of public service.

"My story could have ended there, but this is America," he said.

9:04 p.m. -  Walker referencing the June 5th vote in his state that allows him to keep his office and dealt a bit of a blow to organized labor, to much applause.

Says he's improved the economic climate for job creators.

But he's going to numbers again, and the crowd is again winding down. No one has consistently touched their emotions yet, except for the Oakridge Boys.

Walker is spitting statistics like an accountant now, and even his applause for "that man is Mitt Romney" line is tepid.

8:59 p.m. - The "you didn't build that" Obama speech fragment seems to be the lead for every film shown between speakers.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hits the stage and the crowd immediately wakes up, big applause, new energy.

8:56 p.m. - Bev Gray, a small business owner from Virginia, who has 20 workers, up next to tell her tale.

Crowd really seems tired of the politician/small business owner, "rinse and repeat" rhythm of the evening right now.

8:53 p.m. - McDonell: "Big government didn't build America. You built America."

Says states governed by Republicans have lower unemployment and are more business-friendly.
Telling the tale of new jobs and reduced deficits in Virginia. Like Kasich, he says they've done it without raising taxes.

The crowd has kind of dulled down again.

The rhetoric has given way to wonky, numbers-driven speeches.

Lots of folks playing with their phones, checking Facebook, milling about on the floor.

8:49 p.m. - Gov. Bob McDonell, of Virginia, hitting the stage. McDonnell was considered a legitimate VP possibility before Paul Ryan was announced.

"This election is about the story of the American dream," he said.

Telling his family's immigration tale, and their progression toward prosperity in America.

"The sky is the limit in the United States of America. We cannot lose that dream."

Well, I think we can all agree on that. Now let's talk plans and implementation. There really is not an anti-American dream faction, just disagreement over how to engender it.

So let's listen and see how to do it.

8:42 p.m. - Fallin: "Obama left many Americans with no hope, and just change in their pockets."

8:40 p.m. -  Kasich was followed by a film about Ohio, that leads with Obama's "you didnt build it" speech.

Actually, it was a snippet of that speech, which is easily misunderstood and doesn't quite say what the Romney campaign seems to be claiming it does, says. All's fair in love, war and politics, I suppose.

Gov. Mary Fallin, of Oklahoma, now up.

Telling the history of pioneer Oklahoma, rugged individualism, drilling of Oklahoma's first oil well in 1897.
Says the state and it's entrepreneurs don't owe their success to federal government.

"Mr. President, that dog won't hunt," she said.

8:33 p.m. - On the wall of the arena are two budget clocks. One shows the national debt, just shy of $16 trillion and ticking merrily along, and the other showing the debt Raul by the nation urging the convention, now at $3.2 billion. Kasich, who helped balance the budget as head of the House budget committee in 1997, is using the clocks to talk about the ever-mounting debt.

The clocks are a very useful and illustrative device. It's hard not to look at them.

8:29 p.m. - Kasich telling the story of how he brought back ohio's budget and economy from the edge of door elimination an $8 billion deficit without a tax increase.

"We did it the way a family does it," he said.

He says they kept the programs that worked, got rid of the ones that didn't and killed the "death tax."

Argues they still protect the environment, but honor and help the job creators in their state, rather than regulating them to death.

8:24 p.m -  Gilchrist: "Running a business means taking responsibility."

"Lead, follow or get out of the way. Every small business owner understands that."

Gilchrist has a classic Yankee New England accent of the kind you hardly ever hear anymore. It's kind of awesome.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich now hitting the stage, and a whole new energy level in the crowd accompanies him. Much more attention being paid, much more cheering on applause lines.

8:21 p.m. - Jack Gilchrist, a small business owner from Hudson, New Hampshire, up next to tell his story.

8:19 p.m. -  Sen. Ayotte on Romney: "President Obama has never even run a lemonade stand, and you know what, it shows."

8:17 p.m. - Washington State Rep. Cathy McMoriss Rogers is tonight's host. She just now hit the stage for the first time of the evening.

She again made it clear that "We built it" is going to be the theme, and gave a preview of the speakers to come. Now she's introduced New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who led with "Live Free or Die," that state's motto, to cheers, then began talking about her family's landscaping business and the difficulties of this economy and building a business under Obama.

"The Obama administration wants to bury him in rules, regulations and red tape," referring to her husband, who runs the business.

8:09 p.m. - The crowd sang along, swayed, closed their eyes, and erupted at the conclusion of the song.

8:07 p.m. - The Oakridge Boys just hit the stage, endorsed the ticket, decried an element of society trying to push God out and away, then burst into, honestly, a kicking a Capella version of "Amazing Grace."

7:54 p.m. - Utah's Mia Love just electrified the crowd with a rallying speech that featured what is planned to be a major slogan for the campaign, "We Built it."

Love, 36, is black, a Mormon, and the mayor of she small Utah town of Sarasota Springs. She spoke after a video about her life was shown, and is considered to be a rising star in the party.

Love spoke well, and with passion, about the strides the nations has made, particularly in the realm of race, and the strides it can continue to make if Republicans can reclaim the White House.

Immediately following Love was conservative radio star and former "Northern Exposure" star (she was the lovely airplane pilot and ingenue, Maggie) who is speaking about liberty, in the time of the founders and now.

She blasted Obama  in harsh and certain terms, to applause that, after Greenwood and Love, could best be described as friendly and thoughtful.

7:30 p.m. - It's Tuesday night, just after 7 p.m. and the Republican National Convention got serious. You could tell because Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA," stirring a filing-in crowd that was more than ready to be stirred.

G.E. Smith and the RNC House Band followed Greenwood with a stirring rendition of "I Want You to Want Me," (apparently meant to be a resounding theme of the convention) and things got going.

We'll be live-blogging throughout the night, focusing on the messages of the speakers, the response of the crowd and any oddities that may occur.

It's time for the RNC to kick it off for real.

Tags: mitt romney , ann romney , nikki haley , live blog , republican national conventon

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