Here was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) talking energy in the Rust Belt yesterday:

That is one of the most effective portions of Ryan’s stump speech, in part because this administration’s energy policies and hostility to coal, natural gas and oil development have hurt swing states, but also because with conflict once again brewing in the Middle East, it is an opportune moment to tout the goal of energy independence.

With the spotlight on both GOP candidates at the upcoming Republican National Convention, energy and the larger issues of jump-starting American growth and job protection should come front and center. The RNC has put out a news release telling us that Tuesday night in Tampa will have the theme “We built it.”

Now, it’s certainly appropriate to remind the audience of President Obama’s words. But it is just as vital to make sure voters understand what Romney-Ryan’s formula for job growth is, including energy, trade, regulatory reform, tax reform and immigration reform (e.g. retention of foreign students with advanced degrees). When the RNC says the evening will “highlight America’s entrepreneurial strength and our people’s incomparable work ethic,” Republicans should hope this is not a pat on the back for the past, but an exposition on what a free-market, pro-growth agenda would look like.

More than 60 percent of Americans believe we are on the wrong track. And even in a poll with an unrealistically Democratic-heavy electorate (+7 D), the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll finds that, by a 44 to 38 percent margin, voters think Mitt Romney has better ideas to improve the economy. A large plurality of voters (44 percent) are “not at all confident” Obama has the right policies to improve the economy. (Another 22 percent are only somewhat confident.)

It is on these factors — the right ideas and the ability to turn the economy around — that Romney would do well to stress when he has voters’ attention. Obama is likely to run a convention nearly entirely devoted to tearing down Romney and without any deviation from his basic agenda (e.g. raise taxes, spend more, hire more teachers). Romney-Ryan should use the spotlight to present a far more compelling and realistic set of policies for getting the economy out of the doldrums.