TAMPA – Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee for president on Tuesday, passing the required threshold of 1,144 delegates in a roll-call vote at his party’s national convention.
Romney’s nomination – long assured after he triumphed in a bitter and expensive primary fight – became official at 5:40 p.m., with 50 votes from New Jersey. Later, delegates also nominated Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for vice president.
Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! the convention crowd chanted when Romney at last clinched the nod. The final tally was 2,061 delegates for Romney and 202 split among other candidates. After Wyoming cast the last votes, the convention’s house band broke into a version of the Isley Brothers’ 1959 hit, Shout.
But the happy choreography of the roll call came on a day of headaches for GOP bosses. Supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, booed and chanted in protest as the party adopted rules that blunted the tactics Paul had used to amass delegates.
When those rules were put to the convention for a vote, Paul supporters yelled No. They shouted down one speaker and forced GOP Chairman Reince Priebus to wield his gavel and demand order.
The ayes didn’t have it! said Jon Burrows, a delegate from Texas, after one of the votes. They’re just railroading this thing through.
Tuesday’s session, the first full day of the storm-delayed convention, began at 2 p.m. Even before then, there were signs of an unmended rift between Romney’s supporters and the minority of delegates supporting Paul.
Paul arrived on the convention floor with a great stir, and his backers and Romney’s shouted at each other. Let him speak! Paul’s supporters yelled, referring to the decision to keep Paul away from the convention podium. Romney! others chanted back.
Paul’s supporters are annoyed with proposed rule changes that might limit their power in the next election cycle.
The changes would weaken state-level party conventions, small gatherings where Paul supporters have had more success than in popular votes.
Also speaking on Tuesday evening were a presidential also-ran, former senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and one of Obama’s past supporters, former Democratic congressman Artur Davis, R-Ala. Davis lost a race for governor, lost his seat in Congress and recently declared himself a Republican.
The GOP also used Tuesday to showcase a group of energetic governors who are trying new tactics to shrink state governments.
They include Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Virginia’s Robert F. McDonnell.
Romney arrived in Tampa on Tuesday and spent most of the day huddled with advisers, working on his speech for Thursday night. One adviser, Stuart Stevens, said Romney plans to speak for about 40 minutes and touch on many of the themes he has discussed since launching his campaign in New Hampshire in June 2011.
I think the one note that you hear over and over, whether or not you support President Obama or whether or not you support Gov. Romney, is disappointment in what’s happened in America, Stevens said. So the question is: Do we accept that disappointment, or do we think that we can do better? And that’s really what this race is going to be about.
He said Romney has been thinking about what he wants to say in the speech for many months, taking detailed notes and consulting widely with political advisers, friends, family members and business leaders.
He keeps a lot of notes, and it’s been a process of putting it together from those notes and thinking about things, Stevens said. But, he added, the governor writes his own speeches.
On Tuesday, it wasn’t clear whether Romney’s warm-up acts would be able to command the national spotlight. Hurricane Isaac was spinning over Louisiana, bringing uncomfortable memories of a storm response bungled by the last Republican president.