TAMPA, Fla. Fired-up Republicans saw Mitt Romney accept the nomination for president Thursday night, ending a four-day convention that simultaneously rallied the party and exposed its fractures.
Romney mostly left it to others to tell his story, and Thursday nights program featured former business partners and employers, Olympians from the 2002 Salt Lake City games, and church friends like Pam Finlayson.
Finlayson talked about how Romneys family took care of hers when her prematurely born daughter was in the hospital.
I will never forget that when he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back, she said.
Delegate J. Paul Brown of Ignacio said the week was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but he would love to repeat it.
He enjoyed vice presidential nominee Paul Ryans speech, and he thought Romneys wife, Ann, delivered an important speech Tuesday night.
Hes a moral man, and I think she brought that out. I think we need a good, strong, moral leader for the nation and for the world, Brown said.
Brown and other Colorado delegates got to get up close with party stars. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the delegation for breakfast Thursday, lending a foreign policy voice to a campaign that has mostly focused on the economy.
I think somehow if we thought we muted our voice, people would follow us more, Rice said. People dont hear a strong American voice.
Rice did not stay to answer questions or pose for pictures, but she did accept one of the delegations official white cowboy hats.
However, the week was far from fun and games for many Colorado delegates who support Texas congressman Ron Paul.
They are still smarting over what they saw as a pre-determined vote Tuesday in favor of new party rules that could make it harder for them to get into future conventions.
The episode led to widespread booing on the convention floor unheard of in an era when conventions are more like four-day photo opportunities than true contests.
I think the vote fraud that went on in-house is egregious and reflects poorly on the party, said Todd King, a delegate from Lewis. If they would have allowed a legitimate vote and some dialogue, it would have united and strengthened the party. As it is, its further divided.
Thursday morning, state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call issued a plea for unity to delegates, quoting from former President Ronald Reagans famous 11th commandment speech that forbade speaking ill of other Republicans after the primary election.
I ask you to please, recognize the stakes, Call said. The decision has been reached, and we have a wonderful opportunity to be able to work behind these two good candidates who are carrying our partys banner as we move forward.
In an interview, Call said the rift would not hurt the party because Pauls show of strength at the convention doesnt reflect his support among voters. Paul finished fourth in Colorados February caucus.
I admire the dedication of (Pauls) adherents, Call said. But I think that support of his is a distinct minority among the vast majority of Republicans and members of the general electorate.
Even King found the convention worthwhile because it let people from each faction get to know each other. He sat and talked happily with a Romney delegate who three days ago never would have given me the time of day.
I have faith that it will ultimately work to strengthen the party, King said.