Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney is to address his party conference (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
Mitt Romney will step up for the most important speech of his Republican US presidential campaign on Thursday night, after a fiery warm-up from a running mate who said President Barack Obama was "grasping at a moment that has already passed."
Having won the nomination on his second try, Mr Romney will use his speech to introduce himself to millions of voters on a national stage in a race against Obama that could scarcely be any closer. Republican colleagues urged the normally reserved Mr Romney to make an emotional connection.
As part of that introduction, Mr Romney appeared prepared to discuss his Mormon faith in more direct terms than usual, a direction signalled by running mate Paul Ryan on Wednesday night in several allusions to the duo's differing religions but "same moral creed." Many Americans view Mormonism as not part of the Christian tradition.
Polls show the presidential race is dead even, with less than three months to go before the November election. Mr Romney, a multimillionaire businessman and former governor, holds an advantage as the candidate best equipped to revive the struggling US economy, while President Obama leads as the most likeable candidate.
Most American voters are only now beginning to tune in to the presidential race, after a bitter and extended Republican nominating contest and an unusually negative campaign in which Mr Romney and Mr Obama have relied heavily on negative advertising.
"With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money - and he's pretty experienced at that," Mr Ryan said as he took aim at the president on economic issues, easily the most important ones for voters this year.
This week's Republican convention has given the party a chance to show itself in its best light and energise a conservative base that has been wary of Mr Romney's more moderate positions on social issues as governor of the liberal-leaning Massachusetts.
Many have also been uncertain about Mr Romney's religion, and Mr Ryan and other Republican leaders tried to ease concerns. "I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country," said former pastor Mike Huckabee in his speech.
The choice of Mr Ryan as running mate has helped reach out to solid conservatives. The congressman, with a reputation for vigorous attempts to cut government spending, has become the party's darling since joining the ticket.
Mr Ryan was particularly cutting in his indictment of the president, even in a convention loaded with anti-Obama rhetoric. "Fear and division are all they've got left," he said, adding, "Now all that's left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed."