The former Pennsylvania senator, whose understaffed Republican primary campaign made Mitt Romney sweat well into the spring, remains a double-edged sword for the GOP. His staunchly conservative position on social issues, which during the primaries thrilled some on the right who had yet to embrace Romney, might not be what Republicans want to highlight as they make a push for independent voters. But a full-throated endorsement of Romney — and a full-scale attack of President Obama and his administration — could go a long way toward getting the convention rolling.
Walker's decision to end collective-bargaining rights last year for state employees ignited a firestorm of protests with Democratic lawmakers initiating walkouts and demonstrators staging sit-ins at the Madison capitol. He survived a June recall vote, bolstering his conservative credentials.
The newly minted Texas Republican candidate for an open U.S. Senate seat is already being proclaimed the new face of Hispanic Republicans (his father was born in Cuba). The former state solicitor general is a Tea Party favorite who bested an establishment Republican in the July 31 primary with backing from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, among others. (Palin, by the way, was not invited to speak at the convention.) Cruz is considered a polished public speaker, and this could serve as his national coming-out party.
Elected in 2010 with strong Tea Party support, Haley is young, female and a minority (thedaughter of Indian immigrants). She remains popular with Republicans nationally, even if her star has dimmed somewhat in South Carolina, where she is serving as that state's first female governor. She was an early backer of Romney, yet her state's Republican voters preferred Newt Gingrich in the January primary.
She may have one of the most important jobs at the convention: giving voters a glimpse into the private world of Mitt Romney. Organizers put such a premium on the speech from Romney's wife of 43 years that before Monday's events were canceled they already had moved her to Tuesday night to ensure TV coverage. In sharing bits of their life together, Ann Romney could help improve her husband's likeability with voters, and polls show him trailing President Obama considerably in this area.
The outspoken first-term governor broke many Republican hearts when he declined to enter the presidential race. Instead, he'll be the convention's keynote speaker. His tough talk and common-man appeal could help make the case for Romney among undecided working-class voters.
His speech follows a video presentation from Texas Rep. Ron Paul — Rand Paul's father — who told The New York Times he refused an offer to speak in person because he wouldn't agree to fully endorse Romney or to have his speech vetted by Romney's campaign. But while Ron Paul, 77, a Romney rival in the primary campaign, is winding down his political career, Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite elected in 2010, is just starting out. He could become the new de facto leader of the Republican Party's unofficial libertarian branch.
The 2008 Republican Party standard-bearer is one of the few prominent links to the GOP's recent past at the convention (which is sans President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney). McCain may have some insight into how Romney can try to do what he wasn't able to accomplish: defeat Barack Obama. Look to McCain, who has extensive foreign policy experience and a well-chronicled military record, to make the case for Romney as a strong commander in chief.
The former secretary of state and national security adviser for President George W. Bush is a star in some Republican circles, a respected academic and — as of a week ago — one of the first two women admitted to Augusta National Golf Club in its 80-year history. Rice, who remains deeply linked to the Bush administration's war with Iraq, also will likely tout Romney as a potentially strong international leader.
She's the first female governor of New Mexico, the first female Latina governor in the nation and maintains high popularity ratings among her constituents. She's also governor of a key battleground state, which Republicans hope will help as they appeal to Hispanic voters.
Mitt Romney's running mate, until recently best known as a House budget wonk, gets to show America why he was chosen to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office (should Romney win the presidency). Since his selection, Ryan has energized the Romney campaign and attracted large crowds. His mission before a national audience will be to set the table for Romney while finding a way to appeal to voters who might be undecided but also unsure about his proposals to restructure entitlement programs.
His father (George H.W.) and his brother (George W.) won't be in attendance, but the popular former governor of the convention-hosting state is himself mentioned as a potential White House aspirant in some post-Romney era. His job will be to put the Bush stamp of approval on Romney without too closely aligning him to either former president. Perhaps he also can begin to cement his own future in the mind of the GOP.
Three Olympic gold medalists will try to show how Romney's management of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games could translate into success in the Oval Office. Only one of the speakers participated in those 2002 games — Derek Parra, who won a gold medal in the 1,500-meter speed skating (left). Also scheduled to speak are Kim Rhode, who just won the gold medal for skeet shooting at the London Olympics; and Michael Eruzione, captain of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. hockey team.
A self-proclaimed, "American son," Rubio was long considered a top potential running mate for Romney. The son of Cuban immigrants, elected in 2010 with strong Tea Party backing, Rubio has been given the honor of introducing Romney, who has fared especially poorly with Hispanic voters in recent polls. As NPR's Greg Allen put it, "he's smart, good looking and charismatic," and that's what his party hopes to showcase Thursday night.
The Republican presidential nominee gets to talk directly to a nation that remains pretty evenly split over whether it wants him to lead them and unsure about whether it finds him personally likable, according to polls. While weighty issues, especially the economy, will dominate the convention and likely Romney's speech, the final vote Nov. 6 for some currently undecided Americans could come down to their gut instinct about the candidates. Romney must attempt to leave voters with a good impression of him personally, as well as confidence in his leadership.