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GOP Delegates Say Romney Must Focus On Economy


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel in Tampa, Florida, where this evening Mitt Romney addresses the Republican National Convention. It is a big media opportunity for a nominee: a prime-time appearance on all the big television networks and the cable channels too.

Four years ago, Barack Obama's television audience for his convention speech was estimated at nearly 40 million. That's more than twice the number of people who watched the Romney's on "60 Minutes" the other night. Only the presidential debates deliver more eyeballs.

So what should Mitt Romney say to all those people? Well, here in Tampa, I've been asking Republicans at the convention what they think. Mike McMullen is a consultant and an alternate delegate from Western Pennsylvania who has worn a different Pittsburgh sports jersey every night. What should Mitt Romney say?

MIKE MCMULLEN: He has to define his message, what separates himself from Barack Obama. And the bottom line is it's about jobs and the economy. That is the bottom line.

SIEGEL: It's both the bottom line and by far the most frequently cited line when I asked what Governor Romney should say, cited by Dave Yost, an Ohio delegate, who's the state auditor.

DAVE YOST: Jobs, jobs, jobs.

SIEGEL: By delegate Dave Buell, the Republican Party chairman in Washoe County, Nevada.

DAVID BUELL: Jobs, jobs, jobs. I mean, this economy is hurting, especially being from Nevada, 12 percent unemployment, highest in the nation. That's what Nevadans want to hear. It's how we're going to fix this economy.

SIEGEL: Everybody is for more jobs. Everybody says they want to create more jobs.

BUELL: Well, it's not how can the government create jobs, like it's what we've been doing. It's how can government get out of the way, reduce regulations, put in tax incentives so private companies will go out and create those jobs.

SIEGEL: For Sarah Longwell, the emphasis on jobs is doubly important. She's with the Log Cabin Republicans and Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. Both groups work for gay rights, and she doesn't want to hear the governor take the party line on that issue.

SARAH LONGWELL: I want to hear Mitt Romney commit to being singularly focused on creating jobs, not all the other noise that you're hearing on a lot of these other issues, but singularly focused on growing the economy and creating jobs.

SIEGEL: People had different views of how much detail Mitt Romney should offer about how he'll create jobs and fix the economy. Ed Gillespie is a former Republican National Committee chair and a senior Romney adviser. What should the nominee say?

ED GILLESPIE: I have a plan, along with my running mate Paul Ryan, to make things better, to turn this economy around, to have a plan for the middle class to grow and prosper again, that we can have more jobs, we can have higher take-home pay. And I have a record of experience that you can look at and see that I can not only tell you that I'm going to do these things, but I have experience that shows that I can do these things.

SIEGEL: Alexandria Coronado, who's an alternate delegate from Orange County, California, wants to hear some things Romney will do to fix the economy, but, she says, not a lot of things.

ALEXANDRIA CORONADO: Maybe three things that he knows he can do to actually achieve getting the nation's economy back on track.

SIEGEL: Saxby Chambliss is United States senator from Georgia.

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS: He's got to be specific in some areas. Some areas, he won't be able to get into the weeds, but people need to walk away from his speech, saying, gosh, you know, that guy does really have a vision for the direction which America should go.

SIEGEL: Tomas Bowling of Gloucester, Massachusetts, would like to hear something different from Mitt Romney. Bowling is 22 years old. He's a Romney delegate, but his heart is with Ron Paul.

TOMAS BOWLING: I think it would be really great if he would sort of, you know, extend the olive branch to the libertarian branch of the Republican Party and say, you're welcome. You're part of my party. You're part of our party. This is our party.

SIEGEL: But some other Paul supporters, like Texas alternate Guillermo Jimenez, who teaches eighth grade history, hold out no such hope.

GUILLERMO JIMENEZ: I don't believe there's anything Mitt Romney could possibly say to persuade me or my vote. The man is shown to be a completely empty suit. I don't believe he's sincere in about anything he says. He pretty much licks his finger, puts it up in the air and sees which way the wind is blowing. And that's the kind of politician he is.

SIEGEL: Most Republicans here are a lot more pro-Romney. Steven Langert, who wears a yarmulke and used to be mayor of Lakewood, New Jersey, suggested a balanced message.

STEVEN LANGERT: He has to say that government is here to protect the innocent, that government is here to put a safety net out for those who cannot take care of themselves. And at the same time, he has to tell us that government will not be burdensome to the entrepreneur and those who are looking to make a better life for themselves.

SIEGEL: And Sonja Eddings Brown of Los Angeles is the president and founder of a group called Kitchen Cabinet that tries to win over women to the GOP. And she said something similar.

SONJA EDDINGS BROWN: You know, it'd be interesting if the governor could say to women, I want to be your safety net, because a lot of women in the country are not married now. They're having kids later. They're divorced. They're young single mothers, and the president of the United States is their safety net.

SIEGEL: Some thoughts from Republicans - delegates, alternates and others - here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on what Mitt Romney should say in his acceptance speech tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.