Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, delivered his acceptance speech on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The evening also featured speeches from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced Romney; movie star Clint Eastwood; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. CNN contributors and analysts offered these assessments of the evening:
Julian Zelizer: Mitt Romney, problem solver
Mitt Romney had to accomplish three goals in his speech Thursday night: He had to introduce himself to the nation, he needed to explain why he is a better alternative than President Obama and he needed to outline his vision for the nation in the next four years.
Through a solid, though not an exceptional, speech, Romney made progress on all fronts. He opened up by sharing more about his religion as well as his family. His speech showed that Romney is more than a ruthless capitalist, offering an alternative narrative of Romney as a problem solver.
Until tonight, all of the speakers, including Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, spoke about the need to make tough choices. The speech, and the biographical film, presented Romney as the person who could take up this challenge.
Romney also took a more aggressive stance toward President Obama by depicting him as a leader who had made big promises but who failed to deliver on what Americans need most, namely creating jobs and healing the divisions in politics.
Comparing Obama to President Carter, he completed the picture that Republicans have painted of the White House during the convention: a depiction of the president as someone who refuses to make tough decisions and who lacks any viable plan for strengthening the country.
The biggest weakness of the speech came with the final challenge, as Romney offered only a vague picture of what he would do in four years that would revitalize the state of the nation. He promised to have a plan, but the substance of the plan remains unclear. In the coming months, this is the big challenge for the Republican candidate if he wants to win the White House.
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America."
Maria Cardona: Good lines, empty slogans. No sale
Romney's speech was well delivered with the right intonations and applause lines, and even some teary-eyed moments when talking about his mom and Ann Romney. But that line about how when America needs to accomplish something great, "you need an American"? Dog whistle to the birthers?
Rhetorical crumbs to women, immigrants, Cubans and ultra-right-wing evangelicals is what we heard from Romney on Thursday night. And a regurgitation of the "Best of Obama Criticisms," including how President Obama had almost no business experience when he took office. How many years of business experience does Paul Ryan, the man who would be VP, have?
He also underscored his experience at Bain Capital, which will give Democrats the opportunity to repeat their claims that some of the companies he invested in were loaded up with debt and shuttered, and that workers lost their jobs, pensions and healthcare.
He talked about creating 12 million new jobs but didn't say how. Will those jobs be the ones left behind by the 12 million undocumented immigrants he wants to self-deport?
The five ideas he did talk about were empty slogans for which he offered little real detail. And the fifth one about cutting taxes and regulations for small businesses? He should get the president's record right and understand there have been 18 tax cuts for small businesses and that there have been less regulations on businesses these past three years than in the first term of President George W. Bush's administration.
Some good lines, not a great speech, and I suspect it did not move the needle significantly with women, Latinos or independents or do much to really humanize Mitt Romney with voters We'll see.
Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
David Gergen: Where Romney fell short
The real judgments on the success of the GOP convention will come from voters, not from those of us in the peanut gallery. Nevertheless, with the third and final night in the books, it is worth considering the results of his speech, the climactic arc of the third night, and the convention as a whole.
With regard to the speech, it is possible that Romney's quiet, plain-spoken sketch of his personal journey -- especially its invocations of a Norman Rockwell America -- will humanize him and draw over women who have soured on President Obama but have worried that Romney is a hard-hearted, rich, elitist, corporate raider who has no compassion for those less fortunate. Relentless negative ads against him in recent weeks have left that impression. Probably the greatest success of this GOP convention is that it revealed a different, far more decent Romney who does care about others.
In that sense, his acceptance address may have been a worthy climax to a three-day effort to portray him in a better light. That could help to narrow the gender gap that is holding back his candidacy.
But from my perspective, as one who is deeply worried about the next few years in America, the speech was a disappointment on substantive and rhetorical grounds. Just the night before, Paul Ryan hammered home the idea that the Romney-Ryan ticket was ready to make tough, bold choices that would unleash a dynamic America. Romney simply wasn't going there Thursday night: There were no tough choices, no ringing calls for new policies, no details about how we would get there. Instead, he declared -- without any supporting evidence -- that a Romney presidency would create 12 million jobs in the next four years. Since no president has ever done that, one might have thought that there would be a compelling game plan to get there. Instead, he offered up a brief laundry list of five ideas -- many of them what George W. Bush would offer -- and left it there. Sorry, but that was neither bold nor tough.
Rhetorically, the speech was solid but not compelling. It had heart but lacked soul. Mario Cuomo famously said that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose -- this was all prose. Nor was there a clear trumpet -- it is not even clear what the lead paragraph would be in press accounts. If Bill Safire were still alive and editing his anthology of great speeches, he would be much more likely to include Ryan's than Romney's.
Perhaps voters will have a more positive impression than I had and will flock to Romney in droves. If so, hats off to the Romney team for figuring out today's political mood far better than those of us who kibitz on the sidelines. But if they called this one wrong, Thursday night will go down as the biggest missed opportunity of the campaign.
As for the convention as a whole, its biggest success may have been to warm up Mitt Romney. From Ann Romney's moving speech Tuesday night about her husband to the emotionally charged testimonials on Thursday, climaxing in a film and then his own re-telling of his life story, the convention seemingly did well in erasing the impressions created by the barrage of negative advertising he's sustained. What the convention lacked in compelling plans for the future, it made up for in its humanizing portrait of the party's nominee.