So there we have it, it's all over at the RNC for tonight.
The highlight was undoubtedly Ann Romney's effective and humanising address, that may have done more for Mitt Romney's personal image than many millions of Super Pac spending.
Chris Christie gave it all a harder edge, although it really did seem to be more about Christie.
The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland, who's here on the floor at the RNC, has some thoughts:
Ann Romney certainly spoke well and persuasively - but I have a slight and sneaking feeling that she may not quite have done the job of humanising her husband that Richard refers to. First, she had the burden of performing two tasks in a single speech, rather than just one. Besides advocating for her husband, she also had to rebut the notion of the GOP as a party that has become anti-women: hence the awkward-ish declaration that "I love women!" That meant diluting the case she made for Mitt.
More important, though, was that what she did say about him tended to focus on the notion that he is competent and capable and would be a great CEO for USA Inc. That's all good for the campaign - but not exactly the humanising material that he needed. Beyond saying that her husband made her laugh and that he liked to give, even if he did not like talking about it, she did not add an awful lot more. And that was what she needed to do most.
That all makes sense. It also felt odd that after all that from Ann, Mitt just appeared and waved, when what we really wanted was for him to say something substantive.
It's worth noting that several words weren't mentioned even once tonight, that I noticed: George Bush, Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan, al-Qaida, Iraq. Unless I missed them all, which is always possible, but otherwise: not a whisper.
All right, there we go. And we can do it all again tomorrow.
And that's it - Chris Christie roams around the stage making a grabbing motion with his hands that appears to be farewell wave. Then he reluctantly departs the stage to howl at the moon and curse his bad luck at not being the Republican presidential nominee. And then have a pizza.
Chris Christie getting a bit shouty now. Not sure this makes great television, which tends to make shouty people look, well, shouty.
"Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless. We all must share in the sacrifice. Any leader that tells us differently is simply not telling the truth," says Christie, who could find bits of that quote ending up in a Democratic party ad.
"Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear," says Christie, who then bangs on with some nonsense about healthcare that "puts a federal bureaucrat between an American and her doctor".
Aaaaand here we have the traditional "some sceptics will question if America can be great again" etc part of a Republican keynote address. But not Chris Christie! And not the unnamed guy he's supporting for the presidency! Mitt someone.
Christie is giving it the "telling it like it is" posture:
Let's be clear with the American people tonight. Here's what we believe as Republicans and what they believe as Democrats.
We believe in telling hard working families the truth about our country's fiscal realities. Telling them what they already know - the math of federal spending doesn't add up.
With $5 trillion in debt added over the last four years, we have no other option but to make the hard choices, cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government.
My Guardian colleague Ewen MacAskill wisely notes that the Republicans have got this the wrong way around. Bad cop Chris Christie should have gone first, to be followed by good cop Ann Romney. Finish on the feel-good high note.
But let's wait and see how Christie wraps it all up.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in full flow at the RNC in Tampa. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
"This is the man America needs," says Ann Romney. "This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved... This man will not fail. This man will not let down America."
"Look into your hearts," she continues. "You can trust Mitt. He loves America. He will takes us to a better place, as he took me home from dance."
Oh and look who it is? Mitt Romney! Squeal!
They politely kiss but not a full-on Al and Tipper Gore snog.
That was an awesome effort by Ann Romney - and it feels kind of a let down to be having to watch a bio-video touting Chris Christie. More Ann! Less Christie!
Suddenly it's like Chris Christie is running for president. Which he is, in 2016.
"This is important, I want you to hear what I've got to say," says Ann Romney. "Mitt doesn't like to talk about when he helps others, because he sees it as a privilege, not as a talking point." Very effective.
Ann Romney gets the biggest applause line of the night when she addresses voters wondering about who to vote for president: "No one will work harder, no one will care more, no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney."
My money is on Mitt Romney making a "surprise appearance" any time now.
"I'm still in love with that high school boy," says Ann Romney after running through their respective biographies and early life together, who's doing a good job here. "A story book marriage? No, what Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage," which gets a big round of applause.
"It's the moms who have to work a little harder," says Ann Romney, who says that if you listen to America sighing at night, the women sigh a little longer. "I love you women!" shouts Ann.
"You are the best of America, you are the hope of America, there would not be an America without you," says Ann, after listing how women know the fastest route to the emergency room. "I'm not sure there's a man in America who realises this but women don't expect their life to be easy."
I don't know quite what to make of this proto-feminist speech but time will tell.
"This is going to be so exciting!" says Ann Romney as the long applause fades, before changing gear and mentioning that Hurricane Isaac has indeed made landfall.
"Tonight I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts. I want to talk to you not about what divides us but what unites us as an American family.... I want to talk to you about love," says Ann Romney.
Technically she really wants to talk about empathy, but who can complain about love?
But then there's another swift gear change: "I've been all over this country - and I've met a lot of you guys!" Then, back to love.
Ann Romney wife of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney speaks on stage during the RNC. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images
"South Carolina just passed one of the most innovative immigration laws in the country," says Nikki Haley. That's one way of putting it: innovation!
Haley gets a really big cheer for her rousing defence of South Carolina's voter identification laws.
Haley's doing really well with the crowd, she's building up nicely and hammering the government. "What did President Obama and the federal government do?" is her repeated question to a variety of scenarios.
This is easily the best speech of the night, and Haley's doing it with a smile. Nikki 2016, that's all I'm saying.
Artur Davis's role here is to represent the Obama voters of 2008 who have become disenchanted. "Let's put the poetry aside, let's suspend the hype, let's come down to earth and start creating jobs again," says Davis.
"Let's say: 2008, lesson learned. 2012, mistake corrected," says Davis in winding up, getting his biggest hand of the night.
Next up it's Artur Davis, the one-time Alabama congressman and gubernatorial candidate for the Democratic party. He's changed horses and joined the Republicans - and he gets a warm welcome here in Tampa.
Former US Representative Artur Davis at the RNC in Tampa. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The latest small business person on stage now is complaining that he didn't get any business from the stimulus. In other words, if the government had bought he's stuff he'd be happy. Er, what happened to "I built that"?
Another speaker, another new governor. This time it's Brian Sandoval. of Nevada.
Goodness, there's a protester right in the level above me. It's a woman holding a sign saying something like "It failed in Wisc[onsin] - austerity" and something else. I can't hear what's she's saying.
I hope she doesn't jump, she'll land on me.
No one seemed to notice so she's been there for a few minutes.
Scott Walker is sticking to message here and telling the scripted message about individual business success in the face of overwhelming Obama-odds. It's done with an aim but it doesn't get the delegates going. I overhear two delegates moaning that all the "I built that" stuff is boring.
Walker also complains about how unemployment is over 8% in Wisconsin, which is obviously the government's fault. Funny thing, those governors with lower unemployment boast that it's because they cut taxes and whatnot.
My colleague Ewen MacAskill is taking soundings from delegates on the floor.
Kevin Fulton, 41, from Houston, Texas, is one of the few black delegates at this convention. Wearing a white cowboy hat like the rest of the Texas delegation, he was keen to hear from Mia Love, the Congressional candidate.
“It is true there are not many blacks at the convention,” Fulton said. “We Republicans do not say African-American. We say black.” He added: “The Republicans need to do a better job of delivering their message to blacks and Hispanics.”
He is finding plenty of excitement in Tampa at the prospect of winning the election, though he admitted it would be close. “People are not excited by Romney but they are anti-Obama. I think we will see a high turn-out on the Republican side and low on the Democratic side.”
Apart from Love, he was looking forward to hearing Ann Romney and Christie. He wanted to hear from Ann Romney about their personal life. “What is missing from Romney is the personal side, what he is like behind closed doors. I like that his sons are speaking out.”
Charlotte Lane, 64, from West Virginia, is, like the other 30 delegates from the state, wearing a plastic coalminer’s hat. It is to highlight what she says is the damage Barack Obama is doing to the famous and controversial West Virginia coal industry.
For her, the highlight of the day will be Ann Romney and New Jersey governor Chris Christie. “Romney is not a warm, fuzzy person. Ann Romney is a lot more relaxed. I have MS like her and to live with that takes a lot of courage. I like how she says he was supportive. I would like to hear how she managed to raise five boys,” Lane said.
As for Christie: “I would like him to really criticise the Obama administration. “
Governor Kasich's speech seems to contain a lot of the same jokes he has been using recently, such as the "Joe Biden told me he was a good golfer" quip. It seems that his teleprompter went down mid-speech so he winged it, pretty successfully it seems.
A quick trip outside for fresh air - if a tent with fans blowing cool mist counts as fresh air - has me running into Virginia governor Bob McDonnell entering the convention hall, with a few people eager to shake his hands, and he seems happy.
That sort of sums up the mood here: a pleasantly good mood rather than a particularly fired up one. But that may change.
There are now even more "We built it" signs out in the crowd on the floor, proper printed ones now. Obviously the Republicans think this is some sort of killer line, although it's not obvious that it is.
The line-up of TV-friendly faces continues. "President Obama has never even run a lemonade stand," says New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte. Do we know that's true? Politifact? Anyone?
"We Built It". Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Speaking of the "you didn't build that" bash-a-thon that the Republicans are on tonight: before the convention restarted, I noticed a few people walking through the crowd of delegates on the floor, offering hand-painted signs saying "we built that" and similar slogans.
"Democrats depend on dependence," says actress lady. Because theformer cast members of Northern Exposure are uniquely placed to judge such things.
Northern Exposure actress Janine Turner addresses delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP
Mia Love is a seriously good speaker: "Mr President, I'm here to tell you the American people are awake and we're not buying what you're selling us."
Oh, she just invoked Rosa Parks as an example of American individual triumph. Not by name, but still. "This is the America we know, because we built it," says Love, get in a mention of the "you didn't build that" remark they love to bash Obama with.
Also, a surname like that makes a fantastic bumper stickers: "Vote Love". Who wouldn't like that, eh?
Now there's that actress who was in that sitcom a while back.
Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, Mia Love addresses the RNC delegates in Tampa Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP
And we're back at the RNC, after Speaker of the House John Boehnerbrought the convention back to order following that brief recess, during which the miserable $5 hotdogs on sale was a clear sign of market failure.
Boehner tries to warm the crowd up by saying that at his family bar in Ohio, if someone came in and said that business was doing all right, "we'd throw him out".
Boehner repeats this theme a few times, in an attempt to get the crowd behind him and start a "we'd throw him out" chant. It doesn't take off, and one gets the impression that the Boehner family bar in Ohio must struggle if all they do is throw out customers who want government healthcare and so on.
This is Richard Adams live in the Tampa Times Forum conference hall.
…Tonight I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts.
I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family. I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good, and the deepest solace in our dark hours.
My colleague Paul Harris has been down to a Citizens United screening of "The Hope, The Change", an hour long anti-Obama documentary.
"It is probably unwise to underestimate Citizens United," says Paul. "After all a legal spat over one of the conservative production company’s movies wound up in the Supreme Court and created the modern world of unlimited money in elections and SuperPACs."
At the Tampa screening just outside the convention centre Citizens United president David Bossie called the movie “a culmination of a year’s journey.” That year was spent finding 40 people (the majority of the Democrats) who had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and now regretted the decision. They all live in swing states like Ohio, Colorado and New Hampshire are not shy in either explaining their joy in 2008 and their deep current disillusionment with the man they voted for.
Of course, Citizens United is a partisan activist group. But it
employed Democrat pollster Pat Caddell as an aide to advise on the selection of its subjects. Caddell is a former consultant to President Jimmy Carter, but he is also a familiar face on Fox News and has long been a major critic of the Democratic party. However, he insisted the people appearing the film and vehemently denouncing Obama from the vantage points of former supporters were genuine and unprompted. “This is unscripted,” he said. “There are no Republicans in the film. There are no conservatives. There are no Tea Party people,” he added.
That may be true and the film is a slickly produced attack on Obama. It eventually portrays Obama as an elitist snob who spent wildly, failed to kickstart the economy and whose healthcare reforms divided a nation. By the end of it former supporters are calling his time in office “a charming story” and his slogan of Hope and Change as “God forsaken”. All vow never to vote for him again. It also contains powerful scenes where its subjects describe hard lives working multiple jobs and taking no vacations. Some start to weep. The movie then contrasts their concerns with scenes of Obama enjoying rounds of golf and holidays in Hawaii. Which is where the film starts to fall down.
Caddell insisted this demographic – of the struggling middle class person who once voted for Obama but is now thoroughly disillusioned – is “terrifying” to the Obama campaign. He is likely right. But at no stage in the movie does anyone mention the word “Republican” or “Mitt Romney”. After all Romney, with multiple holidays homes, offshore bank accounts and a car elevator in his house, is hardly an example of the modest, earnest middle class. There are indeed a lot of disappointed Democrats out there and “The Hope, The Change” has tapped into some of their frustrations. But the Republican party in general, and Mitt Romney in particular, is struggling to do the same.
Hello again, it's Richard Adams, live from the RNC convention hall – thanks to a floor pass – I can report that the crowd went wild after all the states had finished voting.
Thank god Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was on hand to come in and calm things down with the voting for the vice presidential nominee. Mitch McConnell could calm down a hyperactive three-year-old who had just drunk a whole can of Coke.
And Mitch has just handed the mic over to someone even duller, because this is the RNC, where some people even get turned on at the thought of Mitch McConnell.
Big cheers for Governor Scott Walker from Wisconsin. When the cheers die down Walker reminds us that the National Football League MVP, the Major League Baseball MVP AND Miss America are all from the state. Plus, Paul Ryan.
Wisconsin pledge all but one vote to Mitt Romney. The one rogue vote was cast for Ron Paul, I suspect by a young man wearing a foam 'cheese hat'. (I spotted him on the convention floor earlier this afternoon).
The delegate count of states goes on – and those present will one day be able to tell their children, their children's children and their children's children's genetically-modified children, that they were present when the Republican party nominated whatshisname to do that thing that time.
It is less likely that there would be a floor flight over a rules change to the 2016 nominating process after a compromise passed Tuesday afternoon by the Republican National Convention’s rules committee.
Conservative ire has dampened after the rules committee voted, 78 to 14, to accept the full set of revised rules.
Now the Republican National Convention is morphing into a 1980s British Labour party conference, it appears.
The latest chapter in the unfurling omnishambles rules dispute at the RNC in Tampa comes via the Guardian's Ewen MacAskill:
Ron Paul supporters are planning to disrupt the convention ahead of the roll-call this evening that will formally nominate Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential candidate.
The Paul supporters are angry over changes to the party rules that have stripped some delegates of their voting rights.
David Boyer, a Paul supporter from Falmouth, Maine, said of the 24 delegates from Maine, 20 are Paul supporters. The party, as part of backroom negotiations, has cut the 20 Paul supporters down to 10.
“They do not want a convention. They want a coronation,” Boyer said. He added that he is not disputing that Romney is the party's nominee but that he is concerned only about protecting grassroots power.
Boyer said that he will mount a challenge ahead of the roll-call this afternoon by asking to take the microphone. If he fails and is denied a chance to have his say, he will be followed by other delegates, all other nine remaining Paul supporters, each going up in turn. He said other delegations, including Texas and Massachusetts, are sympathetic and will also support them.
Among the delegates stripped of their voting rights is Cody Morgan, a member of the Maine delegation, a Paul supporter and, at 19 years old, one of the youngest of the RNC delegates.
Both Boyer and Morgan said the last-minute decision by a committee made up of nine members of the Republican establishment is unfair. The delegates had paid for air fares and hotels only to find they would not be able to vote, relegated to the status of guests, they said.
The arcane procedural rules battle that erupted last night refuses to die down and is now threatening to become Actually Interesting and Newsworthy - always a bad sign.
With Sarah Palin and the Tea Party super pac Freedom Works getting involved, the Guardian's Paul Harris explains the background:
One Ron Paul supporter, Bobby Regi from Denver, was patiently waiting in line to get inside the convention holding a “Ron Paul for President” sign and even clung to the far-fetched hope Paul might still be nominated in Tampa. “I think Ron Paul could still be president,” Regi explained.
That might explain the recent bid by Republican National Committee officials and other party leaders to change the rules for the 2016 race. New regulations had been drawn up that would have allowed a nominee to veto delegates sent to the convention. The move was seen as a power grab by the national party against state party officials and would have made insurgent campaigns like Paul far less likely in practise. However, the Houston Chronicle reported that the new rules had been changed in the face of the opposition, especially from the large and powerful Texan delegation. The compromise deal now allows delegates to selected by local state rules and organisations but voids them if they vote for someone other than the nominee.
But other activists have warned they are still not satisfied. The conservative grassroots FreedomWorks group had emailed its supporters on Tuesday to urge them to still call delegates on the RNC Rules Committee and tell them to "stop the RNC powergrab". The dispute also even brought in Tea Party favourite Sarah Palin who on Monday night had posted about the issue on her Facebook page and called the changes a "direct attack" on ordinary Republican conservatives by elite party officials.
We'll have more on this as it develops – and like Hurricane Isaac, it's gathering force.
Here at the RNC convention centre, there's some speculation who will be the "mystery speaker" said to be appearing at the podium tonight. Most obvious guess: Mitt Romney himself, who is now in Tampa at the nearby Marriott.
Doubtless he'll appear while Ann Romney is speaking. This is pretty much exactly what Barack Obama did in 2008.
More on RNC ambience from Paul Harris of the Guardian, who obviously drew the short straw for something this morning:
The heat and humidity of Tampa clearly brought out the worst in a few crazies. One street preacher, flanked by a half dozen supporters, spoke in front of a banner warning "homosex" (sic) was a national security threat. His view that God wants women back in the kitchen and Mormons will go to Hell were so extreme an audience of 30 or so Republicans laughed. Probably the most healthy reaction.
Just two blocks away the homophobic bigots of The Westboro Baptist Church stood in front of a bunch of gun toting soldiers waving placards saying God hates the US army. One can only imagine the thoughts of those well-armed men as the Westboro folks sang: "God hates the world."
And now: the Guardian's Paul Harris has an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, tonight's keynote speaker at the RNC:
New Jersey governor Chris Christie caused a stir when he walked through the lobby of the Tampa Sheraton where the Massachusetts delegation from Romney's home state is staying. He was instantly mobbed by delegates and officials and he posed with them for a half dozen photographs. The usually chatty governor - who many conservatives dreamed would run himself in 2012 - was not so keen on talking to the press. "I'm not doing any comments today. I'm sorry," he told The Guardian. Was he looking forward to his speech - one of the most eagerly awaited of the convention? "Yes," was all he would say.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who will give the keynote address, and his wife Mary Pat Christie stand on stage for a soundcheck. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state's apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia's goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
Not all is peace and unity inside the Republican party. Overnight, it seems a grassroots rebellion – involving an unholy coalition between the forces of Ron Paul and the Texas GOP – has overturned the cunning rule changes that the Romney campaign and Republican national leadership were trying to pass:
Under a compromise reached late Monday, Romney supporters and GOP leaders agreed to back down from a proposed rule change that effectively would have allowed presidential nominees to choose what delegates represent them at national conventions.
The proposed change was aimed at muting the power of insurgent candidates such as Ron Paul but prompted an uproar from Texas Republicans, who select their delegates through successive votes in conventions at precincts, then districts and finally statewide.
It's the arcane rule revisions that make political conventions the pinnacle of human nature that they have become.
We're live from the Republican National Convention in Tampa – on the historic day when Willard Mitt Romney will be officially selected as the Republican party's candidate to lose the 2012 US presidential election.
Yes it's come to this: lamestream media gags in the opening paragraph. Welcome to live-blogging the awesome bit of the RNC this afternoon as we await such schedule highlights as:
• Resolution of Appreciation and Tribute to Deceased Party Leaders
• Report of the Committee on Permanent Organization
• Report of the Committee on Resolutions
and of course, the ever-popular
• Official Convention Photograph
The actual highlight will be the roll-call of states for nomination of president and vice president of the United States, whereupon just as things get interesting the convention will promptly go into recess for naps and the early diner special at Bob Evans, before returning at 7pm and the sexy part of the evening: keynote remarks by GOP rockstars such as Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, Ann Romney and finally sometime after 10pm, Chris Christie. Plus a veritable “who's that?” of Republican party leaders such as … Man With the Hair from Virginia, Lady Woman Governor from South Carolina and Tea Party Latino Dude of Texas.
That is, assuming the whole thing isn't cancelled because Isaac is about to flatten everything between New Orleans and Tallahassee or Donald Trump keeps making “hilarious” tweets.
Regardless, the Guardian's team here in Tampa will keep the news-hose aimed squarely at the bonfire of the GOP vanities, which these days mainly involves recording the latest Republican to use an inappropriate rape/abortion metaphor.