Mitt Romney swept to the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night at a storm-delayed national convention scripted to propel him into a close race for the White House in tough economic times.
The former Massachusetts governor watched on television with his wife, Ann, at a hotel suite across the street from the convention hall as delegates sealed his hard-won victories in the primaries and caucuses of last winter.
Romney arrived with his wife Ann and family Tuesday afternoon for her rehearsal, with many hoping her speech Tuesday night will soften voters to Romney. But some are acknowledging that most voters are still getting to know her.
“I look back at Barbara Bush and Laura Bush and they have been such wonderful First Ladies - you know, Ann Romney's got a lot to live up to!” says Kentucky delegate Hilda Legg.
Paul Ryan also made his Tampa arrival with wife and children in tow while in downtown Tampa - with security tight - decked out delegates, reporters and celebrities filled the hotels and streets heading in to the convention.
Singer Pat Boone, a Romney supporter and founder of the Beverly Hills Tea Party, is one of the many enthusiastic convention attendees ready to campaigning hard to defeat Barack Obama.
“We've got a guy whose like an airline pilot whose never flown a plane. We need someone who knows business. Who knows the economy,” Boone says. “Mitt Romney is what we've been praying for - millions and millions of us.”
Not everyone is yet on board. Ron Paul delegates are making it clear they're not ready to back Romney.
“We know how evil Barack Obama is. I would rather four more years of Barack Obama than Mitt Romney because we don't know how evil he is!” says Paul supporter Darrell Young.
Virginia General Assembly delegate Barbara Comstock of Fairfax was one of Tuesday’s featured speakers.
“In 70 days, let's return to what our founding fathers wanted - a country of freedom opportunity and prosperity for all,” she said.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a primetime speaker Tuesday night, introduced the party platform this afternoon.
“It's an indictment of the failed administration policies of debt,” he said
As the festive atmosphere on the floor began and delegates geared up for a week of political messaging, former governor John Sununu - a close Romney adviser - says that even if Isaac diverts some attention away from the night’s speeches, the real work is keeping voters attention begins after these delegates go home.
“The more important thing is that they pay attention after the convention,” he says. “Campaigns are like a basketball game. In basketball it's the last two minutes. In a presidential campaign it's the last two months.”
But as the convention finally got under way and the message to elect Romney began, excited delegates and party officials were ready to get this convention started and work to get Romney elected president.
But with New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast waiting fearfully to see where Hurricane Isaac makes landfall, politics became an awkward enterprise and no one knows what sort of party the GOP gathering will turn out to be.
After a one-day weather delay, the convention proceeds according to its latest script: delivering Romney the presidential nomination he fought years to achieve, calling the party to unify around him and setting the stage for the final stretch of the hotly contested campaign to unseat President Barack Obama.
Obama, not one to cede the spotlight, tended to presidential business, urging Gulf Coast residents to prepare for the approaching storm. And then he headed out on a three-state campaign trip focused on winning over college students.
Mindful of the political perils of campaigning in the face of a natural disaster, aides said Obama was open to adjusting his schedule if warranted.
But campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki added: "It's important for him to be out there less than 70 days before the election making the case for why he's a better choice for the American people."
Romney has finalized his own Thursday convention speech, said aide Stuart Stevens, and it will be "a clear vision of a Romney presidency and very much from his heart about America and why he wants to be president and what his presidency would be like."
The cash demands of campaigning never far away, Romney worked two fundraisers into the schedule for his first day in Tampa on Tuesday, while Ann Romney and Ryan both popped out new email appeals for campaign contributions.
Tuesday's convention business got under way at midafternoon, with a string of GOP governors and congressional candidates set to warm up the crowd for the roll call of the states that will nominate Romney and then evening's main speakers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.