TAMPA, Fla. – Gov. Chris Christie called for a “second American century” during a rousing keynote address at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, hailing Mitt Romney as the leader the nation seeks to make “the tough choices needed to preserve our way of life.”
The New Jersey governor, a rising star in the Republican Party, supercharged his adoring audience by painting President Obama as a failed leader too reliant on polls and a desire for America to be loved to respond to the nation’s challenges.
The nation can be guided by Romney and running mate Paul Ryan into a second American century like the last one, he said, marked by strong economic growth, a rejuvenated military and a new sense of “American exceptionalism” that rises above a political punch line.
“What will our children and grandchildren say of us? Will they say we buried our heads in the sand, we assuaged ourselves with the creature comforts we’ve acquired, that our problems were too big and we were too small, that someone else should make a difference because we can’t?” he asked. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children and grandchildren to have to read in a history book what it was like to live in an American century.”
Christie’s remarks followed an equally anticipated address by Ann Romney, who portrayed the new GOP candidate for president as a hardworking husband who has put family above all.
They also followed the official roll call that nominated Romney for president and Ryan as his running mate, kicking off what is expected to rank as an epic and hard-fought campaign for the White House.
But Tuesday belonged to Christie, who delivered an address devoid of specifics but high on lofty calls for Romney to return a sense of leadership to the nation’s helm.
In his 2,638-word prepared text, Christie didn’t mention the presidential nominee until word 1,775, then recalled his own experiences as governor of a Democratic state, standing up to unions and restoring what he called fiscal sanity to his state.
“The disciples of yesterday’s politics underestimated the will of the people. They assumed our people were selfish; that when told of the difficult problems, tough choices and complicated solutions, they would simply turn their backs, that they would decide it was every man for himself,” he said.
“Instead, the people of New Jersey stepped up and shared in the sacrifice,” he added, “They rewarded politicians who led instead of politicians who pandered.”
Above all, he said only Romney has the courage and a plan to face national problems that demand plain talk.
“We believe in telling hardworking families the truth about our country’s fiscal realities. Telling them what they already know – the math of federal spending doesn’t add up,” he said. “With $5 trillion in debt added over the last four years, we have no other option but to make the hard choices, cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government.”
He said Romney will address the nation’s problems because of his leadership abilities:
• “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good-paying private-sector jobs again in America.
• “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy.
• “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.”
Ann Romney, meanwhile, elevated her 43-year role as her husband’s main supporter to a national stage. She began her speech with a mention of Hurricane Isaac, wishing the best for the people affected by the storm and for the first responders.
“I want to talk to you tonight from the night from my heart, about our hearts,” she said seeming nervous at the start as it appeared that her teleprompter faltered and she had to speak off the cuff.
But soon she launched into a fast-talking speech in which she aimed to connect with working women by lamenting everything from the price of gas at the pump to the fees that families sometimes must pay to enroll children in school sports.
“We’re too smart to know there aren’t easy answers, but we’re not dumb enough to accept that there aren’t better answers,” she said. “And that is where this boy I met at a high school dance comes in. His name is Mitt Romney, and you really should get to know him.”
Saying that he’s seen her husband help friends and church members in trouble, she said it’s about time for Americans to get to know the real Mitt Romney:
“You may not agree with Mitt’s positions on issues or his politics,” she said.“But let me say this to every American who is thinking about who should be our next president: No one will work harder. No one will care more. No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.”
And in what might prove the most important aspect of her assignment, she worked hard to portray the former Massachusetts governor in a human and likable light. “I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage,’?”she said. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once.”
“A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage,” she said.
While Democrats attempt to portray Romney as an out-of-touch elitist, Mrs. Romney painted a different portrait. She recalled the humble beginnings of her husband’s father, George, who went on to become governor of Michigan.
Mitt Romney followed a similarly successful path, she said, bringing others along with him. “At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance has helped lift up others,” she said. “He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up. This is the man America needs.”
The convention erupted in applause at the end of Mrs. Romney’s speech and as the Republican nominee joined her briefly on stage, beaming proudly.
Mrs. Romney also defended her husband against the Obama campaign’s attacks on his business career. “As his partner on this amazing journey, I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success,” she said. “He built it. He stayed in Massachusetts after graduate school and got a job. I saw the long hours that started with that first job. I was there when he and a small group of friends talked about starting a new company. I was there when they struggled and wondered if the whole idea just wasn’t going to work. Mitt’s reaction was to work harder and press on.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. email: and