By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
It's been a long journey for Mitt Romney.
After six years of running, on Thursday night he will have what is probably his best chance to convince the American people that he should be their next president.
Although voters believe that Romney is best-equipped to deal with our ailing economy, the nation's top issue, it's been an uphill battle for him when it comes to connecting with these voters.
Over the past few days, other speakers - most effectively his wife, Ann - have made the case that Romney is much more than a rich and seemingly emotionless business executive with good hair.
But a lot of Americans still aren't convinced. They don't believe this guy with $200 million in the bank, offshore accounts and private tax returns understands what it's like to struggle.
With that in mind, Politico has some advice on how Romney can make the best use of his convention speech.
For starters, Romney should "go bold," which means not only pitching his own plans for fixing our problems but revealing some personal details he hasn't before.
That means things like his Mormon faith, his near-death experience in France or even what it was like to shut down a plant at Bain Capital.
Another suggestion is to "go light on the red meat." That's what Paul Ryan is for, as he so eloquently showed the nation Wednesday night.
Lastly, Romney could talk about his relationship with his father, George Romney. By giving some details - and showing some emotion - about what he learned from his father, Romney could show us a glimpse of the humanity that many have yet to see but that those close to him insist is there.
Here’s my question to you: How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
It's a quandary. On the one hand, there is what's now Tropical Storm Isaac slowing laying waste to parts of the Gulf Coast.
Granted it's not Katrina take two, but there are hundreds of thousands of people without power, one 18-mile stretch of levee in Louisiana has been overtopped, and many people are losing their homes to the flood waters triggered by heavy rains and a massive storm surge.
On the other hand, Washington and the federal government are laying waste to the entire country - and we are fast approaching an election where some far-reaching decisions will have to be made by the voters.
The Republican convention is in full swing in Tampa, having been spared the brunt of Isaac. And President Obama is hot on the campaign trail trying to convince the country he deserves a second term.
The Republicans shortened their convention by a day out of concern for the storm. And next week - when the cleanup will be in full swing - the Democrats will convene their dog and pony show in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The political business of the country is moving forward in spite of a rather large natural disaster impacting millions of our citizens. The temptation perhaps is to jump to the conclusion that the politicians are being insensitive. Perhaps all campaigning should cease out of consideration of the hurricane victims.
But the fact is Isaac ain't Katrina - not by a long shot. And the problems of the country probably deserve our undivided attention, Isaac or not. We're in big trouble here.
Here’s my question to you: Should politics be put on hold for Isaac?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
With Isaac drawing a bead on the city of New Orleans, the Republican National Convention is no longer at the center of this week's media storm.
Nonetheless, the GOP needs to shine during its abbreviated three-day convention if it wants to recapture the White House.
And while national conventions these days are highly scripted affairs, there's still a little room for a politician to surprise us, in a good or bad way.
Politico takes a look at past conventions and how they've been the breeding grounds for both rising stars and unintended screwups.
Barack Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention propelled him into the national spotlight and started talk of him as presidential material.
At the other end of the spectrum was Bill Clinton's 1988 convention speech. It went on for twice the allotted time, and delegates didn't pay much attention - except for cheering when Clinton finally said the words "in closing."
As for the Republicans' Tampa convention, there are high hopes for keynote speaker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the candidate's wife, Ann Romney.
This convention could be the Republicans' last best chance to introduce Mitt Romney to the country on their terms.
New CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll numbers show that although the race is a dead heat between Romney and President Obama, likely voters believe the president cares more about people and better understands their needs while Romney is perceived as better able to handle the economy, always the most important issue in any presidential election.
And while the temptation might be to try to make Romney seem warmer and fuzzier, he is resisting, saying, "I am who I am." At the end of the day, it's probably easier to be true to yourself than try to be someone you're not.
Here's my question to you: What's the greatest risk Republicans face at their convention?
Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.
And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
"It's time for Mitt Romney to man up, pick up the phone, and ask Sarah Palin to the dance."
That's a quote from a Daily Beast piece that argues Romney should invite Palin to speak at the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, next month.
Palin is complaining to Newsweek that she hasn't been asked to attend the convention yet. She said, "One must remember this isn't Sadie Hawkins and you don't invite yourself and a date to the big dance."
Maybe the Republicans are thinking the downsides to inviting Sarah Palin - anywhere - are pretty obvious:
The former VP candidate and half-term governor of Alaska is a wild card and her off-the-cuff remarks could create headaches for Romney. Palin is polarizing and she could turn off independent voters. Plus she doesn't seem to have much love for Romney so there's always the risk that she could go "rogue."
Never mind all that. Romney might be making a big mistake by not inviting her. It's not like he has this thing wrapped up.
Sarah Palin can do something Mitt Romney can't: fire up the base.
The party faithful went wild when she delivered her "pit bull-hockey mom" convention speech in 2008. And let's face it: Romney could use something to spice up his campaign. So far, electric it ain't.
There are few, if any, other Republicans in 2012 who generate the kind of enthusiasm Palin does.
Plus Mitt Romney was never a tea party favorite. As Newsweek describes it, party activists "feel stuck with a guy served up by Republican elites who speak conservatism with an establishment accent."
Bringing Sarah Palin on board in Tampa might help in this department, too. Her accent is anything but establishment.
Here’s my question to you: Should Sarah Palin be invited to speak at the Republican Convention?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
As the Democrats and Republicans prepare to host their national conventions in the coming weeks, some wonder if it's even worth throwing these big pep rallies anymore.
For starters, the Democrats are facing numerous problems when it comes to their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Some Democrats aren't even going to attend, saying they'd rather stay home and campaign instead.
The Democrats are millions of dollars behind Republicans in fundraising for the convention - Since President Obama is refusing corporate donations.
Pres. Obama carried North Carolina four years ago, but he has major problems there this year. Voters amended the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage. The unions are steamed because there are no unionized hotels in Charlotte. There is a sexual harassment scandal rocking the North Carolina Democratic Party, and the state has a very unpopular sitting Democratic governor.
It's probably no coincidence that the Democrats have already shortened their convention by a day.
But it's not just the Democrats. Some Republicans are also skipping their party's convention in Tampa.
The fact is these political conventions are expensive, 4-day long parties - and they still get tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding. Not exactly a top priority for most of us taxpayers when you consider all the other places that money could go.
Plus it's not like there's any surprise or drama when the candidates and their running mates are generally known long before the conventions.
Former Mississippi governor and RNC chairman Haley Barbour told Politico he would prefer 3-day conventions instead of four:
"Nobody would know the difference besides some bartenders and restaurateurs in the host city."
Here’s my question to you: Is it time to do away with national political conventions?
Talk about pressure – Sarah Palin tonight will give arguably the most important speech of her life.
It will be the first chance for most Americans to get to know John McCain's surprise pick for V.P. Although she's been all over the news since Friday, Governor Palin hasn't taken a single question from a reporter with the exception of a People Magazine interview.
Part of the reason is she has apparently been hunkered down with members of the McCain camp preparing tonight's speech. One senior adviser says while the Democrats and media have done a great job lowering expectations "We're gonna raise some expectations tonight."
Palin is expected to hit on three main themes. The economy and why Republicans are better equipped to deal with it as well as Palin's own experience with the energy economy. Next is to make the case for McCain against Barack Obama, when it comes to both policy and character. And last, to give the public a better sense of what kind of person she is – Palin is described by campaign aides as likable, funny and smart.
The stakes don't get much higher. Palin is certainly in a higher risk position than Joe Biden was last week, since he's been on the national stage for decades. And as a newcomer to national politics, Palin will have to prove she's up for the job and calm any questions about her experience, which is thin to non-existent, when it comes to foreign policy or the qualifications to be commander-in-chief.
Here’s my question to you: What do you hope to learn about Sarah Palin from her speech tonight?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
The good news is: Hurricane Gustav spared New Orleans a direct hit. The bad news is: it freed up President Bush to appear at the Republican Convention tonight.
President Bush won't speak in person, but will address the convention by satellite from the White House. Some Republicans were actually relieved yesterday when they found out the president – whose approval ratings are at record low levels – wouldn't be in St. Paul because of the hurricane. They did manage to get rid of Vice President Cheney, who is on an overseas trip. But they still have Joe Lieberman and Fred Thompson on tap for tonight. All is not lost. The president's speech has been shortened, which is apparently due to Gustav and a compressed convention schedule.
It's a hard sell for McCain, who's been trying to distance himself from President Bush. The White House says the president is looking forward to thanking the Republicans for all their support and to "throw his enthusiastic support" behind McCain.
Polls show 80% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. President Bush has been driving that train for 8 years. And John McCain has voted right along with President Bush 90% of the time.
Here’s my question to you: Does President Bush’s speaking to the Republican Convention help or hurt John McCain?
(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota says he wouldn't attend his party's own convention... if it weren't in his backyard.
Coleman was talking about his fellow senators who won't be going to the GOP convention. He says they're staying home "only because they have tough races". Coleman also faces a tough re-election bid this fall and probably should be concerned about tying himself to a damaged Republican brand as well. As one GOP congressman put it earlier this year: "the Republican brand is in the trash can... if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf."
So far - several senators say they're skipping the festivities in St. Paul. They include Senators Pat Roberts of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Ted Stevens of Alaska and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. That's 5 sitting Senators out of 49 who will be no-shows.
And, the number of Republicans who want no part of the convention is actually even higher because three retiring GOP senators aren't going to attend and there are two others who haven't made up their minds yet.
One political analyst says during the conventions, those senators running for re-election won't be able to campaign anyway. He says the reason they're not going is they're afraid of being associated with party figures who are unpopular in their states - you know, like President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when more than 10% of Republican senators are refusing to attend their own convention?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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