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GOP nominates Romney and Ryan; Missouri delegates fired up by Boehner, Josh Romney

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 28, 2012 - TAMPA – Harsh denunciations of the White House and a plea from one of Mitt Romney’s sons fired up Missouri's delegates Tuesday before they trekked to the GOP convention site and took part in the formal nomination of Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.

Missouri GOP Chairman David Cole -- invoking both the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and Mizzou's entry into the SEC -- cast the state's 45 votes for Mitt Romney, four for Ron Paul and three for Rick Santorum.

A few minutes earlier, Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford cast all 69 votes for Romney and said his state hoped to bring its native son Barack Obama home to Chicago after the election.

"It's energizing," said Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, attending his first national convention. Another first-timer, U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, said "it's pretty exciting," but said he was a bit tired from walking half a mile through checkpoints to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. 

At the breakfast meeting earlier in the day, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that — with the help of Missouri Republicans who he thinks will maintain GOP control of all but two of the state’s U.S. House seats — he is determined to remain speaker and promote Romney's agenda.

"The only way [former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi] is going to get that job back is to pry that gavel out of my stone-cold hand,” said Boehner. He didn't mention the GOP’s tougher challenge of picking up four U.S. Senate seats to win a Senate majority — or the troubled campaign of Senate nominee U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who Boehner and other GOP leaders have suggested should step aside.

Later, Boehner told CNN that Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks — for which Akin has since has apologized — "were harmful. They don't reflect the broad views of the Republican Party."

At the Missouri breakfast, Boehner said a GOP-led Congress and White House would pursue Romney's agenda of low taxes, debt reduction, more jobs, bolstered energy production and stronger defense. And the candidate’s middle son, Josh Romney, told delegates that his father’s campaign is starting to pick up "the same energy that Barack Obama" had four years ago.

"At the end of the day the big issue’s going to be the economy and who’s the best person to turn things around," said Josh Romney, a real estate executive in Salt Lake City who has been a surrogate for his dad on the campaign trail. "We’re actually going to do things, not just talk about it.” He and Romney’s other four sons fanned out Tuesday to talk to state delegations as Ann and Mitt Romney arrived in Tampa in advance of her speech this evening.

After an off-day Monday — with the GOP convention’s first-day activities postponed because of Hurricane Isaac, which mostly bypassed Tampa on its way toward New Orleans — the sun emerged Tuesday and Missouri delegates headed to the Tampa Bay Times Forum to listen to speeches by Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, followed by the official endorsement of the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Many of the Missouri delegates, including Patricia Thomas of Jefferson City, looked forward to hearing from Ann Romney, who was expected to give a warm tribute to her husband. And delegates expected a barn-burner of a speech from Christie, who is not known for mincing words.

In the meantime, delegates talked politics, feasted on party food and got ready for business. "So far, it's been a lot of eatin' and trying to figure out what’s going to happen next," said delegate George Engelbach of Hillsboro, in Jefferson County.

With a Lincolnesque face and beard, Engelbach donned a stovepipe hat, bow tie and black jacket as his every move was chronicled by a Tampa newspaper working on a "day in a delegate’s life" story.

Josh Romney said he did a double-take when he saw the Lincoln-like delegate, and both Boehner and former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Christopher "Kit" Bond mentioned him in their remarks. "Thanks, Abe," quipped Bond as he accepted a glass of water from Engelbach.

Bond, a former Senate Intelligence Committee chair who is now an attorney and business consultant, lambasted Obama’s administration for leaking classified information that has damaged the U.S. intelligence system and compromised relations with Pakistan and other nations. "Barack Obama has totally trashed the Ronald Reagan vision of America as a city on a hill."

Among the well-known political figures at the Missouri events were GOP gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence and Eagle Forum founder and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who was cohosting an anti-abortion "Treasure Life" rally at the Tampa Aquarium on Tuesday that was scheduled to include appearances by former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

Meanwhile, delegates for Ron Paul — who made an appearance on the convention floor Tuesday afternoon — expressed concerns about the party's new rules, making it more difficults for outsider candidates like Paul to run successfully. Some also objected to the fact that the convention -- while allowing delegations to announce the votes for him -- did not actually count those votes in the official tally beause his name had not been put in nomination. 

While the delegates focused on the speech and nomination business at hand, key Romney campaign advisers told journalists at a briefing sponsored by ABC News and Yahoo that they are banking on using a bounce and momentum from the convention to target swing voters, including "Wal-Mart Moms."

"They’ve been dissatisfied so far with President Obama," said Romney pollster Neil Newhouse of the mostly white surburban mothers. "They are a medical bill away from falling off the financial cliff, and looking for someone who can speak to the economy."

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