New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month, while Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) will introduce Mitt Romney.
“As governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie has proven how bold Republican leadership gets results. He has fearlessly tackled his state’s most difficult challenges, while looking out for hardworking taxpayers,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in a statement announcing the governor’s selection. A GOP official familiar with convention planning confirmed that Rubio would introduce Romney.
Christie, an outspoken first-term governor, and Rubio, a senator elected in 2010, are both rising Republican stars who many once considered to be top candidates to be Romney’s vice presidential running mate.
Christie’s combative and blunt tone matches up well with the fighting spirit of the GOP’s tea party grass roots. But his more moderate social positions and occasional willingness to use his sharp tongue on his own party have gained him fans among non-traditional Republican voters as well.
In a statement, Christie promised to use his 20-minute address to offer the kind of candid assessment of the race for which he’s known.
“We have an opportunity in Tampa to make clear that if we tell each other the hard truths, tackle the big problems, and make bold choices, we will see America’s comeback,” he said.
The full slate of convention speakers for the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month is now set, and it reveals a careful attempt by the GOP to highlight voices that will excite party loyalists in the campaign hall while excluding those that could turn off independent voters watching on television at home.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is out. Texas Rep. Ron Paul will not appear. But his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, will take the stage.
The party will also work to elevate figures seen as bright young stars who could help broaden the GOP’s appeal with women and Latinos over those who helped splinter the party through months of this year’s tough Republican primary season.
In addition to Rubio, a pair of female governors — New Mexico’s Susana Martinez and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley — will also speak.
Of Romney’s onetime rivals for the Republican nomination — a colorful cast that includes former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former pizza executive Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) — only former senator Rick Santorum has been asked to speak.
“The agenda of speakers reflect the priorities the campaign has going into the fall,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. “If they were to put someone out there who was not helpful, who was off message or a loud mouth, it would do nothing but hurt their efforts.”
He said the Romney team had selected fresh faces — neither former president George W. Bush nor former vice president Richard B. Cheney will speak — who had demonstrated loyalty to the ticket.
“It’s not designed to make people famous. It’s designed to elect Mitt Romney,” he said.