TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney on Thursday presented the first crucial chapter of his bid to become the country’s 45th president, accepting the Republican nomination and urging the nation to look closely at his resume, his vision and his remedies for the ailing economy.
“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division,” Romney said in remarks prepared for delivery. “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 appealed to the nation’s enduring sense of optimism.
“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,’ ” he said.
The 2012 election will offer a stark choice between two kinds of leaders with two distinct views of America’s future.
Romney said he understands many are disappointed with President Barack Obama, whose job approval numbers in key national polls have been under 50 percent.
“Hope and change had a powerful appeal,” Romney said, recalling Obama’s 2008 mantra. “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?
“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,” the 65-year-old former Massachusetts governor and business executive told the Republican National Convention and a nationwide audience estimated at as many as 40 million people.
To make that choice, Romney said, America must get to know him better. He talked fondly of his wife and family, explained his religious views and recalled his days as a businessman trying to start a small company.
The speech was Romney’s first, best chance to stand before the nation alone as his party’s nominee, his message unfiltered, and make his case.
Traditionally, candidates get a bounce in support from such appearances, though this one could evaporate more quickly than usual, as Obama will give his own address at the Democratic National Convention next Thursday.
Romney faces two perceptions that have dogged him throughout his presidential run: That he lacks warmth and that his positions on issues are too malleable.
Thursday, it was Romney’s turn alone in the spotlight, the manager trying to close the deal.
He spoke of his family.
“My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all, the gift of unconditional love. They cared deeply about who we would be, and much less about what we would do,” Romney said. His parents were well-known political figures in his native Michigan. His father, George, was the state’s governor from 1963 to 1969, and his mother unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 1970.
Mitt Romney talked about his wife, Ann, who addressed the convention Tuesday night and received praise for adding a human touch to the event.
“Unconditional love is a gift that Ann and I have tried to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren,” the father of five and grandfather of 18 said. “All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers.”
With his Mormon faith still a cause of some quiet resistance from evangelical Christians — he would be the first of his religion elected president — Romney patiently described what his faith means to him as his family moved to new places.
“Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church,” he said. “When we were new to the community it was welcoming, and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church.
“We had remarkably vibrant and diverse congregations of all walks of life and many who were new to America. We prayed together, our kids played together and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways.”
Romney has also had a political obstacle to overcome. He has never been overwhelmingly popular with conservative Republicans who vividly remember his stewardship of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 and his championing of a near-universal health care system.
That plan is regarded as the model for the 2010 federal health care law that Republicans feverishly oppose.
Romney said again Thursday that he wants the federal law repealed, but he struggled during the primary and caucus season to rebuff challenges from Republican candidates who lacked much stature.
Romney’s campaign believes, and polling confirms, that this election is largely a referendum on who can best manage the economy.
“I am running for president to help create a better future,” Romney said. “A future where everyone who wants a job can find one. Where no senior fears for the security of their retirement. An America where every parent knows that their child will get an education that leads them to a good job and a bright horizon.”
Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has proposed changing how seniors get health insurance coverage after 2023. They would get federal aid to buy coverage either from private insurers or traditional Medicare. No current seniors would be affected.
Romney devoted much of his talk to his plan to create 12 million new jobs.
He listed five points:
Promoting North American energy independence “by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.”
Giving people proper training for jobs of the future. “When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance,” he said.
Forging new trade agreements and getting tougher with cheaters.
Cutting the federal deficit. Romney wants to limit non-discretionary domestic spending to 20 percent of the economy, down from the current 24 percent. He has offered few specifics.
Providing a friendlier climate for small business. Taxes would be reduced, and regulations would be simplified or eliminated.