Ann Romney gets to work… with home-baked cookies

Republicans hope wife can 'humanise' their candidate as she reveals his softer side

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The mission to put a more human face on the sometimes starchy Mitt Romney was centre stage as the storm-delayed Republican Convention finally got down to business last night, with the heaviest lifting left to his wife Ann Romney, who spoke for the first time of having suffered a miscarriage.

With most polls showing Barack Obama with a razor-thin edge in the run-up to the November election, Republicans now have just three nights to showcase Mr Romney and running mate Paul Ryan from the stage in the Tampa Times Forum, after being forced to abandon Monday's programme because of Tropical Storm Isaac. They were banking last night on Mrs Romney, as well as the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, to set the convention hall alight.

It was similarly vital to ensure a display of party unity. Thus, strenuous behind-the-scenes efforts were under way to tamp down disgruntlement among followers of the libertarian standard-bearer Ron Paul. They were angered that fewer of them than expected had been given seats on the convention floor ahead of last night's ritual roll-call of delegates to put Mr Romney over the top and confirm him as the party nominee.

While "Hurricane Christie", as some here were perhaps insensitively calling the blunt New Jersey Governor, was expected to deliver a rip-roaring endorsement of the candidate and excoriation of Mr Obama, the focus was shared with Mrs Romney, who started the charm offensive early, plying reporters on her plane with home-baked cookies. Both their speeches were to be broadcast live by all the main channels.

At the end of the day, Mr Christie told delegates, it will be up to Mr Romney himself "to let the American people see who is". Yet, the campaign choreographers were clearly relying on his wife to give him help, by underscoring his softer side as a father of their five sons and a husband and partner since they met at high school.

She began with a breakfast television interview on CBS, talking about her battles with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, and revealing she had had a surprise late pregnancy, when she thought she was no longer medically able to bear children, and then suffered a miscarriage.

Sitting beside her, Mr Romney said that he had never before heard details of how their youngest son, Craig, had reacted to the loss.

"I was home by the time he [Craig] got home from school that afternoon," she recalled. "And he walked in the door, and he was about 10, 11 years old. And he fell on the floor and just burst into tears." She said that she had suffered several miscarriages.

Although Mr Paul never came close to winning the nomination, his campaign worked the system to amass a disproportionate number of delegates to the national convention. As well as limiting those assigned seats on the floor, party leaders last week proposed a rule change to make it more difficult for that to happen in 2016.

Among those angered is Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential nominee. Not invited to Tampa, she accused the party of trying to undermine the grassroots of the Republican Party, sometimes known as the GOP (Grand Old Party). "The controversial rule change being debated at the RNC convention right now is so very disappointing," she said. "It's a direct attack on grassroots activists by the GOP establishment, and it must be rejected."

The convention went ahead last night even though the juxtaposition of television images of political chest-beating with the landfall of Isaac close to New Orleans was filled with risk.

A co-chair of the Romney campaign, John Sununu, the former Governor of New Hampshire, struck a jarring note, complaining that the US media was "obsessed with mother nature" by allegedly talking too much about the storm.