Mitt Romney made his pitch to "restore the promise of America" yesterday after an eccentric appearance by Clint Eastwood threatened to spoil the presidential candidate's moment of glory at the Republican Party convention.
Eastwood was supposed to give Romney a heavyweight endorsement but ended up addressing an empty chair and telling the crowd he was talking to an invisible President Barack Obama.
The 82-year old director was cheered by the Republican crowd, however, and when someone yelled out, "Go ahead, make my day," he led the audience in calling out the famous quote from Dirty Harry.
But Eastwood's performance was widely ridiculed, particularly on Twitter, while the Washington Post, in its list of winners and losers on the night, gave him two spots on the losers' list.
Romney, though, delivered a workmanlike speech on national television as he accepted the party's presidential nomination, telling delegates in Tampa that Obama had failed to deliver the "hope and change" he had promised and should be voted out of office in November.
"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.
But his promises gave way to disappointment and division," said Romney, whose speech was punctuated by chants of "USA, USA". "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as President when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
Romney pledged to create 12 million jobs through a five-point plan worked out with his running mate, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan. He repeated a pledge not to raise taxes for the middle class and to repeal Obama's healthcare reforms.
The former Massachusetts governor kept ploughing through his prepared remarks, looking straight into the camera, as a small group of noisy protesters were removed from the hall.
Mocking Obama's ambitious pledges on climate change, Romney said: "My promise is to help you and your family."
Romney's main task yesterday was to introduce himself to voters, and he spoke at length about his personal journey, his business competence and his family background. Opinion polls say he is viewed as less likeable than Obama and the multimillionaire businessman has had difficulties connecting with average voters.
The Democratic campaign has portrayed his private equity firm as an asset stripper that destroyed jobs. His Mormonism, about which he has been reticent on the campaign trail, continues to trouble evangelical Christians who see it as a cult.
Romney mentioned his Mormon faith after an elderly couple spoke movingly from the podium about how he had reached out to them privately with compassion as their 14-year-old son died from cancer.
The dying boy asked Romney, a Mormon lay clergyman, to help him write a will and to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Unfortunately for Romney, the couple's surviving son - a union member - told the Burlington Free Press that he saw the former CEO of Bain Capital as representing "the best and worst of corporate greed".
Other speakers who worked with Romney over the years - at Bain, in Boston while he was governor of Massachusetts, at the 2002 winter Olympics, and in the Mormon church - provided character references and praised him for his tireless work, his inspiring leadership and kindness. The founder of the office supplies chain store Staples, Tom Stemberg, and a brace of Olympic medallists, were among those paying tribute.
Eastwood was followed to the podium by Cuban American Senator Marco Rubio, a star of the next generation of Republicans who delivered an uplifting speech on the "miracle" of the American dream.
Tens of millions of Americans were expected to watch the Romney speech at the convention which attracted more than 20 million viewers on Wednesday when his wife, Ann, gave him an important boost with a show-stopping speech.
But Thursday's warm-up act by Ryan, who launched into a systematic criticism of the Obama Administration's record while neglecting to mention Congress' own responsibility for the economic crisis, ran into a wall of criticism for questionable statements which were branded outright lies by the Obama campaign.
Obama will have his chance to shine next week at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Michelle Obama, the first lady, appeared on the David Letterman late-night comedy show this week and was asked if she had watched the Republican convention, which is seen as the real start of the campaign. She laughingly replied that she had not.By Anne Penketh