Ann Romney's turn in the limelight brings dose of emotion

Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, at the Republican National Convention on 28 August 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ann Romney spoke about how she and Mitt Romney met and appealed to women

Americans excel at entertainment by never underestimating an audience's boredom threshold, and never overestimating its appetite for spectacle.

The Republican National Convention, of course, has a serious purpose but on one level it is pure theatre. That is if theatre was made up of a quick succession of short one-act plays.

On the first night the theme was "We built it", a succession of fast-fire rebukes to the president, who said "You didn't build that", offending many small business people in the process.

A Texas country singer strums a song of "blood sweat and freedom", there's a story from a small business woman, then it is hats off as the Oak Ridge Boys croon Amazing Grace.

Then a senator who says she is pretty good with a snow plough introduces an entrepreneur who says regulation is killing his business.

He then gives way to the governor from Ohio, who's greeted by the audience holding up the letters of the state's name, made out of balloons.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The stage was apparently inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright

Over it all hangs a Gargantuan screen, made up of smaller screens, meaning they are merely huge.

Some are vertical, some horizontal, all in wooden frames.

The quality is astonishing, some how better than reality. When it shows the stars and stripes you feel you could stretch out and stroke the warp and weave of the flag's fabric.

"Will not fail"

But all these marvels are only a support act for the night's main entertainment.

The limelight burns for Ann Romney. She's been burdened with a big job.

When the convention voted for her husband, they made official what we had known for months.

Perhaps that lack of drama accounted for the empty seats, and the rather dutiful dancing as the celebratory music played.

But I'm pretty certain that many here support Mr Romney with their heads not their hearts.

There is no shadow of a doubt about their desire to evict President Barack Obama from the White House. It is emotional and heartfelt.

Many will agree with the lady who told us: "He's an anarchist, I believe he is wanting to destroy America."

But Mitt Romney is their chosen instrument to oust Obama, not their hero, their leader or their passion.

His wife did her best to change that.

"This man will not fail, this man will not let us down, this man will not fail."

Resplendent in a red dress she spoke of the man she fell in love with at a high-school dance and married despite their youth.

How they had an ironing board for a dining room table in a basement apartment, but those were the best of days.

She said that Mitt didn't like to talk about how he helped others, because it was privilege to him.

She touched on religion, ever so lightly. Her appeal to women, a group Mitt Romney has problems with, was less deft.

Standing ovation

She said they were the Americans who never have it easy, who always worry, the mothers, grandmothers, big sisters, and ended this passage, shouting "I love you women!"

She concluded: "This is the man America needs - this man will not fail!"

Her husband came on and hugged her, eyes shining, perhaps with gratitude as well as love.

He has reason to be grateful.

The crowd rose in standing ovation, smiling, enjoying what they had heard.

The hard job of humanising Mr Romney has begun, a little late, but with considerable success.

It was an emotional climax to tonight's reality TV show.