Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) introduces U.S. (Photo : REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files)
Paul Ryan takes his turn in the spotlight on Wednesday for the biggest speech of his political career when he accepts the nomination as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate at the Republican National Convention.
A question mark continues to hang over the convention as Hurricane Isaac slams into the Louisiana and Mississippi shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The storm missed the Tampa area, but has cast something of a pall over the convention because delegates there are loathe to seem overly joyful while Americans elsewhere suffer.
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Heading the list of speakers on Wednesday is Ryan, a conservative budget hawk from Wisconsin.
Careful not to emulate predecessor Sarah Palin, who fell from grace quickly after bursting onto the 2008 campaign, Ryan has made a cautious start to the presidential race.
It is still unclear whether he will help Romney draw support from undecided voters who may be the critical factor in the November 6 presidential election. Polls show a mixed picture.
There has been no doubt, however, that Ryan has energized conservatives in a way Romney was unable to do during the long months of the Republican primary battle, when he faced one then another conservative challenger.
The boyish 42-year-old Ryan, a fitness fanatic, has shown himself to be an affable asset to Romney thus far.
He has helped generate large crowds for Romney when the pair has campaigned together, and some conservatives who were not all that excited about the former governor of Massachusetts are now ready to work hard for him with Ryan on the ticket.
Ryan's presence on the ticket has helped put in play Wisconsin, a Midwestern state that has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984. A Romney victory in Wisconsin could alter the electoral map in a way that could hurt President Barack Obama's hopes for re-election.
LITTLE KNOWN OUTSIDE D.C.
Ryan's place in prime time on Wednesday offers him the chance to introduce himself to millions of Americans who are just now starting to tune in to a presidential race that is too close to call with 70 days left until the voting.
While Ryan, chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, is well known in Washington, he is little known elsewhere.
What is known about him is not necessarily popular with many Americans. A budget plan he proposed in the House would cut government spending deeply and overhaul the Medicare health insurance program for seniors.
Democrats charge Ryan would "end Medicare as we know it" and are using his budget plan against him in states like Florida, with its large population of retirees, and in Virginia, where thousands of government employees populate the suburbs adjoining Washington, D.C. Romney can ill afford to lose either of these two battleground states.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday found Ryan has 50 percent approval from Americans and 50 percent disapproval.
Speakers at the Republican convention thus far have sought to put a human face on the often robotic Romney and enhance his likability. On Tuesday, there was no better advocate for him than his wife, Ann Romney.
She admitted to reporters she had never used a prompting device to read a speech, but during the actual delivery she seemed at ease as she painted a personal portrait of Romney, who Democrats denounce as an out-of-touch wealthy elitist.
Mrs. Romney spoke of the early years of their marriage when the high school sweethearts dined on cheap meals of tuna and pasta, saying her husband was "not handed success" as Romney's opponents charge.
She also worked to try to appeal to women voters who are more supportive of Obama than Romney.
"It's the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right," she said.