Mitt Romney's choice of featured speakers at the Republican National Convention is providing a rare insight into his values, priorities, and strategy.
So far, the selections show that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is eager to accomplish three objectives at the conclave in Tampa--rally conservatives behind him, appeal to traditionally Democratic constituencies such as women voters, and demonstrate his support from foreign-policy experts.
To bolster his support from the party's conservative base, Romney has given major speaking roles to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania—who was popular on the right as a Romney rival in the presidential primaries this year—and to former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who ran for president in 2008 and is now a conservative commentator. Santorum, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Romney in May, issued a statement that, "The Republican National Convention is an important time for us to rally behind Mitt Romney and his vision to put our country back on track. We need a leader in the White House who is committed to reforming government."
Romney also is giving a speaking role to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a favorite among conservative Tea Party activists and son of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, who has yet to endorse Romney. Rand Paul endorsed Romney several weeks ago when it became clear that his father wouldn't win the nomination.
Other conservatives who will have speaking roles include Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both hailing from the key swing state of Florida.
Some leaders on the GOP right are pressing Romney to give a speaking slot to former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee who remains a star among conservatives. But Romney has not announced a decision.
To court women, Romney named as speakers Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico. This is designed in part to address the gender gap that has Obama far ahead among women voters.
And Romney named two prominent foreign-policy and national security specialists for speaking roles—former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Romney, as a former investor and ex-governor of Massachusetts, has little foreign-policy experience. He recently returned from a trip to England, Israel and Poland where his gaffes more than his policies made news.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com and is the author of "The Presidency" colum for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.