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GOP Convention To Spotlight Romney-Ryan Ticket


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene.

Republicans have had today's date on the calendar for a long time, the start of their party convention in Tampa. Well, they have thwarted by Tropical Storm Isaac. The main events have been delayed until tomorrow. This week is an important one for Mitt Romney. He's been counting on the convention as his chance to define himself on his terms for the party and the American public.

For more on this let's turn to Cokie Roberts who joins us, as she does on most Mondays. And Cokie is getting ready for the convention in Tampa. Cokie, good morning.


GREENE: So if I remember correctly this is the second convention in a row where Republicans had to delay things because of a tropical storm, tropical weather.


ROBERTS: Yeah, they really - they can't catch a break. I mean it is really raining very hard, here in Tampa this morning. And, you know, they have ghosts of Katrina to look at, and Andrew, both of which had Republicans presidents in charge, both named Bush. And in each case, the presidents were deemed not to have done a good job for the people who were affected by those storms, which were, you know - we're commemorating anniversaries of this week.

So it is a, you know, a terrible problem for the Republicans. They have postponed today's events. But they're also looking, wearily, at the rest of this week, worrying about a storm that looks, at the moment, like it's about to hit my hometown of New Orleans again. So they can't really be partying here in Tampa if that happens.

And, you know, this comes after a week when they were completely thrown off stride by the Republican senatorial candidate, Missouri, Todd Akin and his comments about legitimate rape. So they are really, you know, unable to roll out their normal kind of pre-convention and then convention activities, which had been very, very carefully planned. And they're not quite sure what to do about that.

GREENE: Oh, they are trying to do some of their traditional rollout, still. I mean we saw Mitt and Ann Romney on the cover of Parade magazine over the weekend. They're doing the TV interviews that we always see leading up to a convention. Are they able to kind of get control of the story, the narrative back?

ROBERTS: Well, I think those interviews have been very effective. First of all, we've seen that move to the center, that we've been expecting from Mitt Romney, happen a little bit over the weekend. He talked about how he was proud of his health care plan in Massachusetts. We hadn't heard a lot about that before, and talked about campaign finance reform.

But much more important, I think, was the whole scene of Ann Romney and the kids and the kids - 18 grandkids.


ROBERTS: And she really is such a character witness for him, when she talks about how he dealt with her MS, and how, really, he was there for her. That really does, I think, have an affect on people.

GREENE: Well, Cokie, we see a lot of this choreography this week, and planning, but issues come up that maybe the party doesn't plan for. Medicare seems to be one that has become front and center. Was Mitt Romney planning for that? Is this a good thing that this issue has gained a lot of prominence?

ROBERTS: You know, it's interesting. He - I don't think was not planning for it. But, of course, the pick of Paul Ryan and his budget plan made that happen. This morning, ABC has a new poll out. It is still tied, in terms of the horse race, so with Mitt Romney up by one over Barack Obama. But he is slightly ahead on handling the issue of Medicare, 48 percent to 42 percent.

He's had a lot of ads out there too, you know, talking about the $700 billion that Obama is cutting from Medicare without saying that that's exactly the same amount that's in the Ryan budget. But Obama is slightly ahead on handling health care. So, you know, it's not exactly how you'd expect it to come down, given the politics of this year.

But really what you're seeing is they're tied on a lot of issues. But the big issue, of course, is the economy and jobs. And there, Romney is way up, 50 to 43 percent. With 56 percent disapproving of the way President Obama has handled the economy.

But, you know, what we're really talking about here, David, is likeability. And that's Mitt Romney's problem. In this poll, 61 percent of the people say that Obama is more friendly and flexible compared to 27 percent on Romney. And, of course, that's what this convention is all about, is to try to make people see him as friendly. And they really need this convention and they need this storm to go away.

GREENE: All right, Cokie, stay dry. Always good to talk to you. Cokie Roberts joining us from the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.