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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Romney Heads to Republican Convention


BEDFORD, Mass. - Former Gov. Mitt Romney took off on Tuesday morning en route to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., to capitalize on the national spotlight even as his team kept a wary eye on storm clouds both metaphoric and literal.

Breaking camp after two days of speech preparations, the soon-to-be-minted Republican nominee boarded a chartered plane at a small airport outside Boston for the trip south, heading to the convention two days earlier than expected. His wife, Ann, will address the convention on Tuesday evening, and an appearance with her would reinforce the campaign's narrative about the candidate's strong family ties.

The campaign released no schedule for what Mr. Romney would be doing during the day leading up to the evening speeches, but with some of his party's most important financial backers in town, it would be an obvious opportunity to cultivate his donor base. He also will be reunited with many advisers who have been in Tampa for days, a chance to fine tune his own speech and to be in place in case more drastic changes have to be made to the convention schedule because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

As things stand, barring further schedule changes, Mr. Romney does not plan to stay. He is scheduled to leave Tampa again on Wednesday to fly to Indianapolis, where he is to address an American Legion gathering. He is set to return to Tampa on Thursday to formally accept the Republican presidential nomination.

With the wild-card distractions of the storm and intraparty tension, the convention has not exactly opened according to script. Mr. Romney's team, worried about the split-screen images of the convention juxtaposed with the storm, has labored to keep ahead of events and refashion a four-day show into three days.

The early arrival of the candidate in Tampa, his advisers hope, may energize the convention and ref ocus attention on his case for the presidency. By showing up on the night of his wife's speech, it also could humanize him as the campaign seeks to reintroduce him to voters who may be turned off by a summer of perpetual attacks and counterattacks.

A new CBS News poll released Tuesday morning highlighted what the network called an “empathy gap,” with 41 percent of Americans saying Mr. Romney understands their needs and problems compared with 54 percent who thought President Obama did. Mr. Romney said in interviews over the weekend that Mr. Obama's “dishonest” attacks have hurt his reputation but expressed confidence that the convention and the fall campaign would allow him to overcome that.