By Geneva Sands - 08/20/12 09:00 AM EDT
Republican National Committee (RNC) communications director Sean Spicer predicted that the upcoming Republican National Convention will be a chance to showcase GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and vice presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) for "the millions of Americans who don't follow politics on a day-to-day basis."
"This is an opportunity for them to understand who both of these men are, what their families are like, what their beliefs are, how they want to take this country forward," Spicer said.
Spicer said Republicans will also use the gathering to present an alternative to President Obama.
The RNC communications chief said that the selection of Ryan brings "a lot of horsepower" to the convention and the GOP ticket.
"He's an idea guy — he's a serious, serious guy when it comes to tackling debt and deficit problems, economic growth policies," he said.
The economy, Romney's signature campaign issue, will take precedent at the convention, said Spicer. He also said issues such as welfare reform, the housing market and the debt and deficit will blend into the economic theme.
Spicer forecast with "almost 100 percent certainty" that social issues, such as abortion and marriage, will be "front and foremost" in Tampa.
"There's a lot of folks that have a good constituency in the Republican Party that believe that we are a party of traditional marriage, that we are a pro-life party," he said. "Those are issues that we believe in and we stand on as a party."
When pressed on whether there was concern that social issues might take away from Romney's economic message, Spicer said no.
He also touted the convention's speakers as the party's "rock stars" and said that there was a wealth of riches when choosing the rundown.
The chosen convention speakers are a who's-who of some of the most talked-about elected officials in the Republican Party, including Govs. Bobby Jindal (La.), Bob McDonnell (Va.) and Nikki Haley (S.C.), as well as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who were both widely speculated about as possible vice presidential contenders, will have major speaking roles at the convention.
The RNC announced former Sen. Rick Santorum as a convention speaker earlier this month. The Pennsylvania lawmaker was eager to have an official role in Tampa after a hard-fought primary contest, but Romney campaign officials were initially apprehensive about Santorum speaking, fearing the onetime rival would go off-message in his address.
Spicer dismissed those concerns and praised Santorum's outreach to voters and strong stance on social issues.
"Sen. Santorum speaks to a great deal of folks in our party who are excited about his stance on some of the social issues, but he's also a guy that came from a working-class background in western Pennsylvania and speaks to middle-class issues, issues that a lot of families face every day. He's a man of tremendous faith, a Catholic. He's not a one-trick pony," he said.
The list of speakers is most likely finalized, said Spicer. However, he pointed to rallies and events being held by former primary rivals Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich outside of the official convention.
He praised Romney rival-turned-surrogate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for being "extremely helpful" to the campaign. "I don't know exactly what his role is, but if it's anything as it has been in the last several months, it will be very helpful," Spicer said.
Spicer said he’s optimistic that the convention will be a "very positive more forward" for the Romney team.
"I think that when more and more people see Gov. Romney talk and how he wants to get things going, make the economy better … I just think, yeah, we'll get that person that says, 'I'm going to go online and give 20 bucks or 100 bucks because this is the guy I'd like to lead this country," said Spicer.
He also slammed the pro-union-rights Democratic National Committee (DNC) for holding its convention in North Carolina, a right-to-work state, saying that non-union, small-business owners have been “left in the dust.”
"There's a lot of tension going on in Charlotte and the surrounding area about how these guys have been treated, but I'm sorry, they [Democrats] set themselves up for that. It's a right-to-work state, you are a party that wants unions, that's your choice … but then you go there and now you've upset a lot of the local business owners, who wanted a piece of it, but they're not a member of a union," Spicer said.
The DNC fought back against Spicer’s characterization.
“By holding our convention in North Carolina with opening and closing events that are open to the public, we have an opportunity to organize in a critical battleground state by training organizers, recruiting volunteers and building the organization for the final push and not cede any ground,” said DNC national press secretary Melanie Roussell, in a statement to The Hill.
“We’re engaging more people than ever in Charlotte, but the Republican convention in Tampa will be the same exclusive, closed-door event of the past, open only to donors and the party elite,” she added. “With no opportunities for the public to attend, they will cater to special interest groups and wealthy donors and will highlight Mitt Romney’s top-down economic scheme, which would return us to the same policies that crashed our economy and threaten the viability of America’s middle class.”
The Republican convention begins Aug. 27 and the Democrats will hold their nominating convention a week later, beginning on Sept. 3.
Check out TheHill.com for extensive coverage of both events.