Tampa, Fla. • After standing behind the podium in front of the massive red, white and blue monitors, looking out at tens of thousands of seats at the convention hall, Mia Love said she feels excited to perform on the eve of the biggest speech of her political career.
"It’s a massive production and I think that it could be very easy to get lost in the size of it all," she said after stepping off the stage. "But the thought that kept coming to me was how thrilling it will be to see the Utah delegation in the crowd and what an honor it is to represent our incredible state."
Love said she has spent days refining and re-refining her remarks, working through countless versions in bed or in the shower, whittling back a laundry list of ideas to just three minutes, plus a two-minute video introduction.
Romney advisers signed off on her remarks, but Love said the sentiment is her own.
"Mostly I think it’s important to speak from the heart so people can understand, so that it’s sincere," said Love, who doesn’t have butterflies yet. "I’m not sure it’s really set in. I just have to make sure I do everything I can to be worthy of that and be worthy of being a representative from Utah."
Love ran through her lines Monday and headed to the Tampa Bay Times Forum at about 8:45 p.m. for a brief walk-through in preparation for Tuesday night, setting the podium height for her speech and getting the feel of the main stage before a nearly empty arena.
Then she went backstage, where there is a mock-up of the stage and teleprompters, and rehearsed her speech for the Romney team, getting coaching and pointers on her delivery.
Love is scheduled to start her speech at 7:36 EDT (5:36 MDT), with supporters gathering at the Republican Party’s Victory Center to watch her performance. Love said her speech will try to draw a distinction for voters between Romney and President Barack Obama.
"The best way I can support Mitt Romney is to contrast the America we know with the … current president, his vision of the country," she said. "We’re going to talk about the direction the country is going versus where we want to go."
Quin Monson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, said the platform and attention Love will receive during the convention could help her win back Republican swing voters who have supported Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
"I think it gives her visibility and credibility," he said. "It is a chance for her to define herself on her own terms and she’s obviously going to make a lot of news at home and elsewhere, and it legitimizes her as a player in some ways."
Love has never been under a spotlight this bright as tens of thousands people are expected to be in the arena Tuesday night and millions more watching on television.
So far, her biggest speech was a seven-minute barn-burner she delivered at the Utah Republican Convention, which wowed the audience.
Delegates at the state convention rated Love’s performance nearly an 87 on a scale of 1 to 100 — the highest of any speaker at the GOP convention — in a survey by Monson’s group. But, he said, that was judging her against other Utah candidates.
"I think it’s a different stage at the national [convention] and her game has to step up to a new level," said Monson. "I’m sure she’ll have some coaching on delivering a speech to a television audience and a big crowd, but it’s hard to say. Some people do really well with this and others fall really flat. Barack Obama made a name for himself and Bill Clinton was a disaster in his convention debut."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, meantime, said he has worked through the short speech he will give Tuesday afternoon. He said that he goes back to his days on BYU’s football team to deal with nerves.
"That’s when my inner place-kicker kicks in and my blood presser really doesn’t go up too much," Chaffetz said, downplaying the significance of his role. "Unless I trip going to the podium, not many will remember this speech."
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