Paul Ryan, in his convention address, was direct in his effort to appeal to younger voters, making fun of Romney's music tastes and painting a biting image of the economic malaise: "College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life."
Meantime, Ann Romney went to the Latino Coalition lunch here at the Republican convention, part of a concerted Republican effort to reduce Obama's margins among Hispanics. "I admire your community so much because I know how much you value family and what sacrifices you make for your families," she said.
She stressed the Republican theme that Obama was unsympathetic to small business. "The Latino community is the huge engine of small business," she said, and "they are mistaken if they think they are going to be better off" if Obama is re-elected.
REVIVING THE economy is an appeal Republicans hope will be heard by all voters, including those who have leaned Democratic. The downturn hit everyone, after all. Pat Mullins, Republican chair in Virginia, said party polling had found that Hispanic voters were less worried about immigration policy than unemployment.
"They're concerned about the same things we are — that their kids have the advantage to better themselves," he said. "That's what they moved here for."
But around the convention there is a palpable subtext, exemplified by Jeb Bush, that just relying on the economic message was a recipe for trouble, certainly in the long term. "We need to start being certain these various communities have leadership roles," Mullins said.
The question of roles sparked some blunt exchanges this week.
The chairman of next week's Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, took a shot at the Republicans for lining up a string of minority speakers at the opening night of the convention. "You can't just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate," Villaraigosa said.
Indeed, the racial fault lines between the parties are creating conversations that are not always pretty.
A search for black faces at the Republican convention has become a kind of game on Twitter under the hashtag "negrospotting." The pop singer Clay Aiken wrote that he and his brother had been watching and taking a drink each time they spotted a black face and were, as their hashtag put it, "soberasamormon." This prompted the country star John Rich to tweet that Aiken "should be ashamed for racist comments like that."
The Republican Party says delegates aren't asked to identify their race, so they don't know how many are black. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which has been counting just that since 1974, said Thursday there are at least 47 black delegates, or about 2.1 percent.
And when it comes to Hispanics, Romney hurt himself during the primaries, particularly when he refused to support Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's legislation to address the problem of young aliens who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents and have lived here for years, gone to school and built lives but remain illegal. Obama then outmaneuvered Romney by unilaterally suspending deportations of these residents.
To counter this, Romney took a step that reflects the very notion Jeb Bush raised — to look at the makeup of the electorate, shape the message and change its intensity. For his speech Thursday evening, the newly minted nominee has chosen someone to introduce him who reflects that changing demographic and can, not coincidentally, help to deliver it: Marco Rubio.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Michael Oreskes is senior managing editor for U.S. news at The Associated Press. Reach him at moreskes(at)ap.org.
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