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Romney preps for speech, frets about storm

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BOSTON — Mitt Romney spent Monday polishing the speech he will deliver Thursday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., while running mate Paul Ryan received a hero's send-off from a gymnasium full of hometown supporters.

The countdown to Mr. Romney's acceptance of the Republican Party's presidential nomination was overshadowed, though, by Tropical Storm Isaac.

Seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the region, Isaac was gaining strength and seemed to be following the same track.

Forecasts from the National Hurricane Center had the storm, which is not expected to be as powerful as Katrina, making landfall late Monday or early Tuesday somewhere between New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle.

The forecast put Mr. Romney in the awkward and unenviable position of having the biggest political moment of his career coincide with a storm that could wreak havoc on thousands.

Already, the storm has prompted the Republicans to cancel one of the convention's scheduled four days and it revived memories of the George W. Bush administration's heavily criticized response to Katrina.

Asked about Isaac on Monday, Mr. Romney told reporters he is thinking about the people who could be affected.

"Our thoughts are with the people that are in the storm's path and hope that they're spared any major destruction," Mr. Romney said,

The former Massachusetts governor and his wife, Ann, spent part of their morning at a private boarding school near their lakefront home in Wolfboro, N.H., where they rehearsed the addresses they are scheduled to deliver to the more than 2,000 convention delegates.

"I like my speech. I really like Ann's speech," Mr. Romney said as he exited the school. "Our sons are already in Tampa and they say it's terrific there, a lot of great friends, and we're looking forward to a great convention."

Mr. Romney's address will close the convention late Thursday.

Mrs. Romney is scheduled to speak late Tuesday.

Before his appearance at the convention, Mr. Romney is scheduled to address the American Legion on Wednesday at the Indianapolis Convention Center.

Mr. Ryan, meanwhile, returned to his old high school gymnasium in Janesville, Wis., where he talked about his family's deep roots in the area and said that the election marks "a defining moment for our country."

"This is not an ordinary election because it's not an ordinary time," the Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee chairman said. "We have a big choice to make. We're not just picking the next president for a few years. We are picking the pathway for America for a generation."

Mr. Ryan, who is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the convention, said that Mr. Obama has put the nation on a path of "debt," "doubt" and "decline," and that the GOP ticket wants to move the country in a different direction.

"We can choose a better path: Reapply those founding principles, reclaim the American idea, get people back to work and get the American idea of prosperity and opportunity society back on track, and that's exactly what we are going to do," he said.

The Romney camp also released a new radio advertisement in which Craig, one of Mr. Romney's five sons, speaking in Spanish, invites listeners to get to know his father and his ideas.

"He greatly values that we are a nation of immigrants," Craig Romney says in the ad. "My grandfather George was born in Mexico. For my family, the greatness of America is how we all respect each other and help one another. It is the dedication, the sacrifice, and the hard work of those who struggle to achieve that dream for their families."

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