TAMPA, Fla. —
Ryan's vice presidential acceptance speech marked a prime-time national debut by a relatively young lawmaker lauded by fellow Republicans for his understanding of the complexities of the nation's budget.
Romney tapped Ryan this month as his running mate, a selection that cheered conservatives who have doubted the presidential candidate's own commitment to their cause.
If Ryan's selection was designed in part to appeal to conservatives, the convention was scripted to strengthen the ticket's appeals among women, Hispanics and others who prefer Obama over the Republicans, as well as veterans who supported McCain in 2008.
Romney delivers his own nationally televised acceptance speech Thursday night in the final act of his own convention. The political attention then shifts to the Democrats, who open their own convention on Tuesday to nominate Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for a second term.
Deep into a two-week stretch of national gatherings, the race for the White House is in a sort of political black hole where the day-to-day polls matter little if at all as voters sort through their impressions.
Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on television commercials by the candidates, their parties and supporting groups, the race has appeared unusually close since Romney clinched his nomination last spring.
Only eight or so battleground states appear to be competitive, although Republicans say they hope to expand the campaign after Labor Day, particularly in industrial states struggling to recover from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan is the architect of a plan to curb long-term deficits by reducing taxes and making deep cuts in accounts ranging from farm programs to education. He also advocates saving billions from remaking Medicare and Medicaid, the government's health care programs for seniors and the poor.
The Medicare changes, in particular, are potentially incendiary in an election campaign. Democrats say that Romney, with his selection of Ryan, has accepted political ownership of a plan that would turn the program from one in which seniors' medical bills are automatically paid into one in which the government would give them checks to purchase coverage at costs that would require them to dip deeper into their pockets.
For all of the attack ads and inflammatory rhetoric, the two campaigns tiptoed carefully around the storm ravaging the Gulf Coast, vying to demonstrate concern for the victims without looking like they were seeking political gain.
Obama told an audience in Virginia he had spoken on the phone with governors and mayors of the affected states and cities while aboard Air Force One earlier in the day. Romney's aides let it be known he might visit the region once the storm had passed.
Romney's reference to $1 trillion in defense cuts was a 10-year figure that combined reductions already enacted by Congress and reductions scheduled to begin next January as a result of Congress' failure to reach agreement on a broad plan to cut deficits.
He did not say so in his speech, but most Republicans, including Ryan, voted for the first installment as well as the second.
And another convention speaker, Sen. Paul of Kentucky, pointedly disagreed with Romney on defense spending.
"Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well-spent, and Democrats must admit that domestic welfare and entitlements must be reformed," he said.
Romney's reference to 9/11 was glancing in a speech that accused Obama of unwise defense cuts. Romney noted the economy is the top issue in the race, but he said, "Our debates can change suddenly, with a ringing phone in the dead of night ... or a plume of smoke on a clear blue morning.