Christie heads GOP speakers

  • Article by: ROSALIND S. HELDERMAN , Washington Post
  • Updated: August 14, 2012 - 9:34 PM

Keynoter will be joined by others carefully selected to excite -- and not turn off -- convention audience.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is out.

But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul will not appear. But his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, will take the stage.

The full slate of convention speakers for the Republican National Convention later this month in Tampa, Fla., 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 TV at home.

The party's attempt to thread that needle came into focus Tuesday with the announcement that Christie -- one of the few party figures who appeals across the broad partisan spectrum -- will take on the coveted role of keynote speaker.

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 nontraditional 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.

Rising stars

The party will also work to elevate figures seen as bright young stars who could help broaden the GOP's appeal with women and Hispanics over those who helped splinter the party through months of this year's tough Republican primary season.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will introduce presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 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 of Minnesota -- 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 loudmouth, 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 Dick 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.

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