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Romney accepts Republican presidential nomination

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The Republican National Convention culminated in Tampa Thursday with Mitt Romney accepting the party's presidential nomination and making the case why he, and not President Obama, is the man to lead the country forward.

TAMPA -- Mitt Romney didn't waste any time criticizing President Barack Obama in his big speech Thursday night. In a theme he touched on early and returned to often, he said the president had inspired optimism, but delivered only disappointment.

"Hope and change had a powerful appeal," Romney said. "But tonight, I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know, there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."

Romney said the president lacked a basic credential: he had no experience working in a business. By contrast, he portrayed his time at Bain Capital as a strength, arguing he helped build businesses. And he presented a five-step plan for job creation, which includes energy independence, deficit reduction and championing small business.

"That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them," Romney said. "It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare."

Romney also rounded out his personal story, citing the importance of his Mormon faith in his life and speaking affectionately about his wife and family.

"If you ask Ann and I what we’d give to break up just one more fight between the boys or wake up in the morning and discover a pile of kids asleep in our room, well, every mom and dad knows the answer to that," he said.

Romney also referenced his views against abortion and gay marriage and chided Obama for failures of foreign policy.

"I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour," Romney said. "President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President. America has freed other nations from dictators."

After a farewell rally in Florida Friday morning, it's off to the campaign trail and a 10-week sprint to Election Day for Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, even as the media's attention turns to the Democrats, who hold their convention next week in Charlotte.

Watch his full speech here

Highlights from Mitt Romney's acceptance speech on Thursday to the Republican National Convention:

ECONOMY and JOBS: Romney said he will create 12 million new jobs by expanding domestic energy production, improving education and training, forging new trade agreements with other countries, balancing the budget, and helping businesses grow. ``What America needs is jobs,'' Romney said. ``Lots of jobs.'' Romney said he will not raise taxes on the middle class.

ENERGY: The United States will be independent from energy sources outside of North America by 2020, Romney said. He supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska. He also has proposed reducing obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development.

MILITARY: Romney said President Barack Obama wants to make major cuts in military spending that will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs and put U.S. security at greater risk. Romney said he would ``preserve a military that is so strong, no nation would ever dare to test it.''

FOREIGN POLICY: Romney credited Obama for giving Seal Team Six the order to take out Osama bin Laden. But he criticized the president for failing to slow Iran's nuclear threat and for abandoning key allies Israel and Poland. Obama has been too easy on Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said. ``Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone,'' Romney said.

SMALL BUSINESS: Romney said he would be a champion of small businesses, which he described as ``America's engine of job growth.'' Taxes on businesses would be cut, not increased, under a Romney administration, he said. He would also repeal President Barack Obama's health care law in order to ``rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare.''

WOMEN: Romney made a direct appeal to this critical demographic by noting that women held important positions during his term as Massachusetts governor. He listed several of the women, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who addressed the Republican National Convention, and he also mentioned that his mother, Lenore Romney, had once run for the U.S. Senate.

BUSINESS EXPERIENCE: Romney stressed that his business background at Bain Capital, a private equity firm he helped start in 1984, makes him better qualified than Obama to turn around a struggling American economy. Among the successful companies Bain helped start, Romney said, are Staples, The Sports Authority, and Steel Dynamics, a steel mill in Indiana.

RELIGION: Romney tied his Mormon faith to the American experience. His family found community and kinship with ``remarkably vibrant and diverse congregations'' that prayed together and were quick to help each other out. He said that growing up Mormon in Michigan may have seemed out of place, but his friends cared more about the sports teams they followed than what church he and his family went to.

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