RNC shows soft and tough sides as Ann Romney and Christie take the stage

The velvet glove and the iron fist are on the docket tonight as the first official night of festivities hosts Ann Romney, showing the softer side of her husband, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with his tough rhetoric and tough-love budgetary realism.

Christie has said he’s not changing his speech in anticipation of Isaac, whose churning over the Gulf of Mexico has conjured rain, wind, and predictable political worries to Republicans in late August. Gov. Bobby Jindal has already canceled his appearance at the convention to be in his home state taking care of storm response.

Longtime Christie watchers know he’s not usually a scripted speaker, and he says the scripted environment of the convention won’t change that:

According to Politico, Christie says he isn’t a huge fan of preparing his remarks before he addresses millions of people, but he’s making an exception in this case. “I don’t use text almost ever,” Christie explains. “So most of the time I think about what it is I want to talk about and then I get up there and I talk about it. Now, with the time restrictions here and obviously the different stage, they want you to work off a text and that’s fine.”

Christie is slotted to begin his speech at 10:32 p.m., according to Romney surrogate Russ Schriefer, which gives him a 28-minute window for whatever freelancing he can fit in.

Before him, at 10:05 p.m. is Ann Romney, addressing a vast, national audience for the first time. Romney’s wife is an obvious political asset for her husband, exuding natural charisma and easily connecting with audiences where her husband might have trouble. The Romney campaign is palpably excited to introduce her to the world, but the environment will be different than what she used to, talking comfortably off the cuff in short spurts:

She is not used to speaking from a prepared text and went over it with advisers line by line. She practiced with a teleprompter and discovered she did not much care for it. And to her surprise she found campaign strategists and even her husband weighing in on her clothing options with counsel she considered, well, questionable.

“The funniest thing of all is that Stuart Stevens, who wears his shirts inside-out, is advising me on what dress I should wear tonight,” she told reporters on the plane, referring to the campaign’s senior adviser. She had thought “it was going to be like my wedding dress” where her husband would not see it until the event itself, only to learn that is not how modern conventions work.

Still, she had not completely surrendered to the exigencies of the polls-and-focus-group crowd. Was she going to take Mr. Stevens’s advice? “The verdict is still out,” she said.

She told Reuters correspondent Sam Youngman:

There have been rumors that Mitt Romney may be in the hall to hear his wife’s speech, but organizers were unwilling to confirm them.

“Anything can happen,” Schriefer said in the morning press briefing, where officials were also tight-lipped about the identity of the “mystery speaker” the RNC is touting for Thursday night.

“If we gave you that information, it wouldn’t be a mystery. Tune in!”

Also on the list of speakers today, Sen. Rick Santorum (7 p.m. hour), New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (all in the 8 p.m. hour), Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Texas Senate Republican candidate Ted Cruz, former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis (all in the 9 p.m. hour), and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Here’s the whole schedule. More preview posts to come!

During the day, delegates will discuss setting rules for the convention and party, where there is a bit of a fight brewing, and take the roll call of delegates. Delegates will declare their support for the presidential and vice presidential candidates today, but the candidates will not technically be nominated until Thursday, Schriefer said.

“I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to getting on with the business of making sure we can provide a better future for every American,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.