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Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, tried to poke at Mr. Obama’s business sense, or lack thereof, saying “But why should we be surprised? President Obama has never even run a lemonade stand — and it shows.”

And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who during his own 2008 campaign made a name as a jocular candidate, drew laughs from delegates over a surefire target: accusing the press of having a liberal bias.

Mitt has been loyal to his wife, his sons, his country, his employees, and his church,” Mr. Huckabee said, leading in to his punch line. “I’m sure the press will tell you he isn’t perfect. But for the past four years, we’ve tried the one the press thought was perfect, and that hasn’t worked out so well for us.”