Mitt Romney’s six-year quest for the Republican presidential nomination was completed Tuesday afternoon in Tampa as national delegates overwhelmingly chose him to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
With one eye on political history and the other on the weather forecast, more than 2,800 delegates cast their votes to make the former Massachusetts governor and multi-millionaire equity investor their standard-bearer in what has become a remarkably close contest for president Obama.
In the most important bit of business since Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus first gaveled the convention to order on Monday, leaders of state delegations stood on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum and announced their vote totals for Romney. The state of New Jersey, with 50 delegates, put Romney over the top with a total of 1,150 – prompting boisterous cheering and demonstrations in the aisles.
Romney arrived in wind-and-rain-swept Tampa this afternoon with his wife, Ann, who is scheduled to speak this evening and introduce the keynote speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. That assumes there are no further changes in the schedule prompted by the impact of Hurricane Isaac along the Gulf Coast.
Romney is eager to use the nationally televised political extravaganza with more than 50,000 GOP activists and party leaders in attendance to more clearly define himself to American voters. This follows a bruising and prolonged primary season and Obama camp attacks on his record at Bain Capital, his proposals for cutting taxes and slashing government spending, and his refusal to release more than two years of his income tax returns.
But Romney could be denied some media attention – or have images of convention activities juxtaposed with split-screen television images of the storm’s onslaught if Isaac dominates the news this week. No matter what Isaac has in store, Romney has secured his party’s coveted presidential nomination after a long and tortuous road. Here are 14 highlights of Romney’s quest for the presidency:
1. Romney leaves Bain Capital to take over as chief executive of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in February 1999. His experience running the Games propels him into a successful run for governor of Massachusetts. He is elected with 50 percent of the vote in November 2002.
2. Romney chooses not to run for a second term as governor, and enters the 2008 Republican presidential primary.
3. Romney drops out of the race on Feb. 8, 2008, after a bitter GOP primary spent battling Arizona Sen. John McCain for the presidential nomination. He then endorses his former opponent, a favor McCain would return this year, during Romney’s second presidential bid. Proving to be a team player, Romney campaigns for GOP congressional candidates across the country in the 2010 mid-term elections, helping Republicans win back control of the House and narrow the Democrats majority in the Senate.
4. Romney launches his second bid for president in June 2011, emphasizing the problems of unemployment, declining housing prices, mounting foreclosures and debt. He charges that President Obama has “failed the American people.” A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Romney ahead of Obama, 49 percent to 46 percent.
5. Former Romney aides assemble the Super PAC Restore our Future in October 2010 and receive huge donations from businessmen and political allies. The Super PAC goes on to raise $89.7 million through August 2012 and airs most of Romney’s toughest attacks on his GOP rivals. The plan was to spend as much as it would take to knock his chief rivals out of the race as early as possible.
6. Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces his entrance into the Republican presidential primary on August 13, 2011. Perry’s entrance excites the conservative base and many view it as a game changer that would pit a true conservative and Tea Party favorite against the more moderate former Massachusetts governor.
7. Perry makes his self-destructing “Oops” gaffe at a Republican presidential debate near Detroit in November, 2011 when he couldn’t name the third of three federal departments he intended to eliminate as president. His embarrassing debate performances prove to be a mortal flaw, and he officially suspends his campaign in January.
8. Former Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain announces in December 2011 that he is suspending his campaign in the wake of multiple sexual harassment accusations dating to back when he served as head of the National Restaurant Association. Cain denies all charges, but ultimately ends his campaign in December.
9. Romney is projected the narrow winner of the Iowa caucus in January, with just eight votes more than former senator Rick Santorum’s total. Romney leaves Iowa victorious, but two weeks later a recount puts Santorum ahead by 34 votes.
10. With help from McCain, Romney wins big in New Hampshire, a neighbor of Massachusetts, with 39.3 percent of the vote. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accuses Romney of having “looted” companies when he headed Bain Capital. “They [Bain Capital] don’t look like capitalism. They look like rich guys looting companies, taking all the cash and leaving behind all the unemployed,” Gingrich told Sean Hannity on Fox News in January.
11. Gingrich clinches victory in South Carolina by after clobbering Romney in a CNN debate during which Gingrich voices outrage at a reporter’s question about a salacious allegation by one of Gingrich’s former wives. Gingrich also aggressively goes after Romney for not releasing his tax returns, a move the Obama campaign later embraces.
12. Romney redeems himself in Florida during two debates against an overconfident Gingrich, who was still savoring his win in South Carolina. After Romney’s strong performance in both debates, he wins the crucial primary on Jan 31 and walks away with Florida’s 50 delegates.
13. Appealing to hard-line conservatives wary of the moderate Romney, Santorum declares “Game On” in January, after belatedly winning the Iowa caucus. He goes on to surprise the base again by winning three states on Super Tuesday including Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. But by March, Santorum’s fundraising and campaigning punch begin to run out of steam, as Romney lengthens his lead in the delegate count. He announced the suspension of his campaign on April 10, as a path to the general election clears for Romney.
14. After victory in Texas in May, Romney surpasses the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination.