TAMPA, Fla. - Seizing the campaign spotlight, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan embraced "the calling of my generation" to help lead the country in tough times Wednesday night and pledged to cheering Republican National Convention delegates and a prime time TV audience that Mitt Romney will make the bold and difficult decisions needed to repair the nation's economy.
"After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney," the 42-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker declared in what amounted to a national debut. He spoke at a convention dogged by Tropical Storm Isaac, downgraded from a hurricane but still inflicting misery on millions along the nearby northern Gulf Coast.
"We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead," Ryan said.
His speech was part attack on Obama, part spirited testimonial to Romney, all leavened by a loving tribute to Ryan's own mother, seated across the hall in a VIP box. "To this day, my mom is a role model," he said while she beamed and exchanged smiles with one of his children and delegates cheered.
Earlier, the convention spotlight shone on a parade of politicians who extolled Romney's experience.
Like a big tattoo, it seemed cool when you were young, Pawlenty told the convention, but later on that decision doesn't look so good and "you wonder: what was I thinking? The worst part is, you're going to have to explain it to your kids."
The barb was part of Pawlenty's broader criticism of Obama's failure to create more jobs and help the middle class. He said between things like taxes, Obamacare, the stimulus and Joe Biden, "it's hard to choose Obama's worst mistake."
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said raising U.S. standing in the world depends on solving problems at home, and that the Republican presidential nominee is the man to accomplish that task.
Rice said America's position as the most successful political and economic experiment in history is in danger today.
She spoke of a crisis in education and asked for immigration laws that protect the country's borders while meeting economic needs.
Rice said there is a sense that America has for too long carried the burdens of supporting free people and free markets, but that if the United States does not lead no one will lead, fostering chaos.
Former pastor and one-time presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee spoke before Rice, saying he wanted to clear the air about whether "guys like me — an evangelical — would only support a fellow evangelical."
"And he supports changing the definition of marriage; believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb, even beyond the womb; and tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care."
Referring to the Republican nominee's Mormon faith, former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee said: "I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country."
China holds nearly $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt.
Appearing before delegates on his 76th birthday, Arizona senator John McCain joked that he "had hopes of addressing you under different circumstances," a reference to the dreams he once had of speaking as the incumbent in the White House.
Without mentioning Obama by name, McCain accused the president of failing to lead — on military spending and grave international issues as well.