On the last night of the Republican convention, it fell to Cuban Senator Marco Rubio and presidential nominee Mitt Romney to make the two final speeches outlining the vision of the party, a couple of months away from November’s election. In a clear recognition of the nation’s growing Latino electorate, Rubio’s speech focused largely on his vision of the country through his lens as a Cuban growing up in an immigrant household.
“Many nights I heard my father’s keys jingling at the door as he came home from another 16-hour day,” said Rubio. “Many mornings, I woke up just as my mother got home from the overnight shift at K-Mart.” Then Rubio said in both Spanish and English, “My Dad used to tell us, ‘In this country, you will be able to accomplish all the things we never could,'” to applause.
Rubio, widely talked about as a potential vice presidential nominee and a rising star in the Republican party, had the national spotlight as he gave the speech introducing Mitt Romney. Much of his speech centered around Rubio’s family. He talked of his disabled Cuban grandfather, who used to smoke 3 Padron cigars a day and who watched the 1980 Republican convention with Rubio when he was a little boy.
But Rubio got the biggest cheers when he spoke of his father, who was a bartender. “He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in front of the room,” said Rubio to great applause.
Rubio’s speech also had some zingers as he criticized President Obama‘s administration. “Under Barack Obama, the only Change is that Hope has been hard to find,” said Rubio. Rubio said Obama is not a ‘bad person — he’s a bad President,” adding, “no matter how you feel about President Obama, “this election is about your future, not his.”
Rubio’s speech focused less on Governor Romney. When he did, he described him as a devoted husband and father, and a generous member of his community and church. Rubio said, “Mitt Romney believes that if we succeed in changing the direction of our country, our children and grandchildren will be the most prosperous nation ever.”
And finally, it was Mitt Romney’s turn to introduce himself to the country. Romney said his father was born in Mexico (to a family of American Mormons) but came to the U.S. after the Mexican revolution. “We are a nation of immigrants — the driven ones,” Romney said. Romney also spoke of growing up in a close-knit Mormon household, of his marriage to Ann and his five children, and of his experience building up Bain Capital. He also got emotional as he described his parents’ 64-year marriage and spoke extensively of his mother, moments when he showed more of his personal side.
Romney also delivered some political “blows” to President Obama, saying “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,” said Romney. Romney also said, “I wish Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.”
Romney then outlined his vision of a Romney-Ryan presidency, saying he would focus on small business creation, a promise to repeal Obamacare, and a plan to create 12 million new jobs. He also touched on social issues, saying he would “protect the sanctity of life” and honor the sanctity of marriage.
Romney quickly drew criticism in social media following a comment which was seen as making light of global warming. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” he said, eliciting laughter in the crowd. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Romney also repeated inaccurate accusations that President Obama cut S716 billion from Medicare — similar figures on Medicare savings over time are featured in Paul Ryan’s budget — and he also said President Obama raised taxes on the middle class, though middle-class families have seen tax cuts.
In the end, though, Romney focused on portraying himself as a better alternative to President Obama‘s last four years.
“This was the hope and change America voted for — it’s not just what we wanted,” said Romney.
The Republican convention in Tampa is now over — and it’s on to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, where President Obama will make his case for another four years in the White House.