Top Republicans have sharply criticised US President Barack Obama's economic record during the first full night of their convention, and praised Mitt Romney as a leader who could restart a stagnant economy.
Romney arrived in Tampa on Tuesday to join his fellow Republicans, and delegates officially voted to affirm him as the party's presidential candidate. The evening was capped by primetime speeches by his wife, Ann, and the keynote presenter, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Christie accused Obama of "absentee leadership" during his combative address.
"Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths that we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good-paying private-sector jobs again in America," he said.
Ann Romne, in her speech, tried to counter her husband's widespread image as a wealthy businessman who many Americans believe is out of touch with those affected by the economic crisis.
"We got married and moved into a basement apartment... shared the housekeeping and ate pasta and tuna fish. Our dining room table was a fold down ironing board," she said.
She also mentioned that she is the granddaughter of a Welsh coal miner who was "determined that his kids get out of the mines".
In the face of criticism by Democrats that Romney and his fellow conservatives are waging a "war on women", Ann was sure to appeal to American women in her speech.
"Sometimes I think that late at night if we were all silent to listen we could hear a collective sigh from the moms and dads across America who made it through another day... and you'll hear the women sigh a little bit more than the men," she said.
"We are the mothers, we are the wives... I love you women!"
Romney, who had originally planned to arrive in Tampa on Thursday to accept his party's nomination, decided to make an earlier appearance on Tuesday to be on hand for his wife's turn at the podium, a campaign official said.
Republicans seeking to salvage the convention faced a stiff challenge: to help Romney make an aggressive, memorable argument to voters that he should replace Obama, while being careful to show sensitivity to those at risk from Hurricane Isaac, currently menacing the Gulf Coast.
Delegates gathering for the typically festive and partisan event were also under pressure to avoid the appearance of unseemly celebration with the storm approaching.
"As far as getting our message out, I think we're going to be able to get it out very clearly that President Obama has failed"
— Russ Schriefer, convention organiser
The convention will culminate with Romney's nationally televised acceptance speech on Thursday, the biggest speaking engagement of his political life as he heads into a 10-week sprint to the November 6 election.
He has spent the past few days rehearsing at his New Hampshire vacation home.
Running even with Obama in most national polls, Romney needs a bounce in popularity from the gathering, particularly in the 10 or so politically divided "swing states", including Florida itself, which is likely to decide the election.
"As far as getting our message out, I think we're going to be able to get it out very clearly that President Obama has failed," Romney convention organiser Russ Schriefer said.
Part of that message is presenting Romney's biography - his years as a private equity executive, Massachusetts governor and leader of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics - in a flattering way that contrasts with the waves of attacks on Romney by the president and his allies.
Ann Romney, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and survived a bout with breast cancer, is perhaps Mitt Romney's most popular surrogate.
"Having breast cancer wasn't easy," she told CBS' This Morning programme. "I've had several miscarriages actually, but having multiple sclerosis was a very, very hard time in my life.
Karen Agnes, from the conservative Network of United Women, argued that the party was suffering from "misconceptions" about what the party represented.
"I would challenge that premise [that the party was anti-women]," she said, in response to a question from Al Jazeera.
"Having her [Ann] out front, talking to women, you'll really see a bounce with women."
She said Ann Romney was "very likeable".