TAMPA, Fla.—Ann Romney energized delegates on the first night of the Republican National Convention Tuesday, outshining New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the convention’s keynote speaker.
Romney stepped on stage to a chant of “We love you Ann.”
“Tonight, I want to talk to you about love,” she said, launching into an appeal to women that repeatedly referenced the sagging economy. The daughter of a Welsh coal miner, Romney told the story of her father who immigrated to Michigan, built a business and became a mayor.
Speaking just before Christie, Ann Romney pushed back against the picture of her husband that’s painted by his political opponents. She defended his business background and lamented attacks from Democrats.
“I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success,” she said. “He built it.”
Romney made a personal appeal to the crowd, telling delegates that her marriage is no “storybook” and recounting some of the obstacles faced by the couple.
“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a storybook marriage,” Romney said. “Well, let me tell you something: In the storybooks I read, there never were long, long, rainy winter afternoons—a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called M.S. or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? Nope, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”
She also made an effort to dispel the image of an entitled Mitt.
“Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how much he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not as a political talking point,” she said.
Inside the convention hall, Ann Romney’s speech generated more energy than most of Christie’s address, and the accolades from GOP strategists and pundits came in quickly once she left the stage.
“I think Ann moved the needle tonight,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy tweeted following her speech. “Christie solid but not the star.”
Republican media strategist Alex Castellanos echoed the sentiment, tweeting that Romney had “total command of this hall.”
On CNN, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer called Ann Romney’s speech “one of the most effective” he’s ever seen.
For his part, Christie offered up a solid speech to convention delegates, but the New Jersey governor’s address was more muted than his reputation might suggest.
Christie’s message also applauded strong women. The son of an Irish father and Sicilian mother, he explained how “in the automobile of life, dad was just a passenger.” Christie described his mother as a tough-as-nails enforcer, before adding, “I am her son.”
He accused Democrats—“the disciples of yesteryear’s politics”—with underestimating the will of the people. Christie said the opposing party has coddled Americans with big government, believed in teachers unions rather than teachers and expected grandparents to put their needs before those of their grandchildren.
Christie, who is much talked about as a future presidential contender, didn’t go after President Obama by name once in the entire speech; there was only a sole reference to “Mr. President.” It also took Christie more than 15 minutes to even mention the name of his party’s nominee.
Despite the soaring reception for Ann Romney, Christie’s speech garnered plenty of cheers from the convention crowd. One of his biggest applause lines Tuesday night came when Christie accused Democrats of whistling “a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel.”