is likely to focus strongly on economic issues.
"They have to lay out a vision for overcoming a jobless economy, or more likely an economy teetering on the edge of another recession," Hook said. "They must convey that, if we don't have the fortitude to address these things, all we have to do is look at Italy or Greece to see our future."
Along with selection of the vice presidential candidate and debates later in the fall, most experts view the nominee's speech as one of three crucial elements of a national campaign that truly captures the public.
"It's the first time the country as a whole will be watching," Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said. "Mitt Romney and [vice presidential nominee] Paul Ryan need to stand before the country and say why they are the ones who can create jobs. This election, like all others, is about jobs and the economy."
It's also about two starkly different visions.
Whereas the Democratic convention a week later will no doubt highlight government's role in solving problems, the GOP gathering will emphasize strengthening the private sector and controlling the nation's higher-than-ever public debt.
It's not a naturally easy sell. Both Ryan and Romney back a dramatic restructuring of Medicare, in which future seniors would get government vouchers to buy health insurance -- and, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, pay more for it than under the current government-run health program for the elderly.
With polls showing that proposal to be deeply unpopular with independents as well as Democrats, top Republicans say Romney and Ryan must make the case that such tough measures are good medicine.
"They need to meld together short term ideas for how to solve the fiscal crisis, what to do about long-term debt, and entitlements," said New York State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox. "And they need to put it all together in words that cause the public to say: 'I get it.'?"
No matter how sobering the message, Romney is likely to leave Tampa in a stronger electoral position. Republicans have averaged a 5.9 percentage point "bounce" in the polls after the conventions between 1964 and 2008, according to Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political science who writes a "Crystal Ball" political outlook. That compares to a 4.3 percentage point average for the Democratic candidates over that time period.
Then again, convention "bounces" often disappear, Sabato said.
The race between Obama and Romney remains a close one, although the president maintains a lead in most polls in the crucial "swing states" that will decide the election. A Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll last week showed Obama with a six-point edge in Ohio, a three-point lead in Florida and a two-point advantage in Wisconsin.
The Florida and Wisconsin polls were tighter than those taken earlier this month, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"Overall the race appears to be tightening," Brown said. Then again, "there has been no huge movement. The race has been tight for quite a while."
Some Republicans privately express frustration that it's still so close, given that incumbent presidents usually bear the blame for a weak economy.
And they also worry that all those Democratic attack ads -- and maybe Romney's own performance on the campaign trail -- have left him in a weaker position than he ought to be in.
An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released last week illustrated part of Romney's problem. The poll showed that while 31 percent of the population has a strongly positive view of President Obama, only 18 percent feel that way about Romney. Meanwhile, 30 percent of those surveyed have a very negative view of Obama -- and 29 percent have strong negative feelings about Romney.
Add it all up, and for now, Americans tend to like Obama more than Romney.
But this week is Romney's chance to change that. His wife, Ann Romney, is expected to focus on the candidate's personal side, while other convention events are geared to illustrate his professional successes.
"We are going to tell the governor's story in a very complete way," said Romney campaign strategist Russ Schriefer. "The convention will show that he is uniquely qualified to take on the problems the country is facing at this time."
Unfortunately for Romney, he's taking the GOP nomination at a time of some controversy.
Akin, the GOP Senate candidate from Missouri, last week reinvigorated a debate over abortion the party would rather avoid when he said that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" can fight off pregnancy without having an abortion.
But the dust-up over Akin's comments point to a larger challenge for Romney: reconciling the increasingly strident views of conservative Republicans with an electorate featuring many independent voters in the middle of the political spectrum.
Still, New York Republicans with ties to the national scene and experienced in conventions are confident that Romney and Ryan will be able to deliver a message that plays well both among the party's right-wing base and among centrist voters who are looking for solutions rather than ideology.
After all, the party knows it cannot depart Florida without energizing the Republican base, enticing wavering independents, and effectively communicating its message.
In fact, every moment of the convention has been choreographed to do just that.
"It's all a carefully orchestrated process to present the president and vice president candidates and their values," said former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence.
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