Romney, Ryan hit convention stage for campaign photo-op

TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney hit the convention stage before his acceptance address Thursday, posing for a picture with his campaign staff.

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Romney was joined for the photo-op by his vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), on the stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and both were flanked by dozens of members of his campaign team.

"Big night tonight," he said following the photo-op as he was escorted away from the stage.

The former Massachusetts governor came out minutes later to stand at the podium for a dry run before his big address, when he formally accepts the Republican nomination for president.

He was greeted by cheers from the upper deck of the largely empty arena of "We love you, Romney!" and "College students for Romney!" He acknowledged the cheers with a wave and a smile.

Spectators and media standing on folding chairs snapped pictures as Romney and Ryan finished taking the official photo with their campaign staff. 

"Break a leg Mitt," one person yelled as the GOP standard-bearer walked up the stairs alongside the stage. 

Crews worked all morning to extend the wooden platform on which Romney will deliver a 40-minute address on Thursday night. 

Flanked by security and a handful of senior staff, the candidate appeared on the stage after more than 100 campaign aides scattered to allow for his dress rehearsal.

Senior Romney advisers Matt Rhoades, Eric Ferhnstrom and Russ Schreifer watched on as their candidate made sure that he was comfortable with the set-up. Romney adjusted the microphones and the height of the teleprompters, which were too low for the 6'2" Michigan native. 

As he turned to leave the stage, a handful of convention pages cried "we love you Mitt!" — a gesture that he returned with a wave.

Following his departure, production staff went to work rehearsing the rise of the podium from a trap door located below the new portion of the stage. 

Earlier in the day, American Idol Taylor Hicks ran through several takes of the Doobie Brother's 1976 classic "Takin' It To The Streets" — much to the delight of convention pages and media preparing for the convention's final night. 

— This story was updated at 5:39 p.m.

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