Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves on stage during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By RAJU CHEBIUM, Gannett Washington Bureau
TAMPA, Fla. -- South Carolina delegates left the Republican National Convention eager to do whatever they can to help GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan win an election that's still too close to call.
After three days of pep rallies, parties and pitches from Romney, Ryan and rising stars like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, delegates face the hard work of campaigning -- knocking on doors, handing out campaign literature, registering new voters and lobbying friends and neighbors.
Delegates said the key is to amplify the message broadcast from the convention -- that Romney will fix Obama's economic mess.
"We just need to get the message out that Gov. Romney is carrying and get it out to all the people," said Joe Flowers, a Walterboro physician who serves on the Colleton County Council and was one of South Carolina's 25 convention delegates. "I will talk to everybody that I can to let them know what our situation is in this country and to (make) them understand that we have to change the road we're going down."
Convincing voters to vote Republican is easier in South Carolina, a reliably red state, than in swing states where support also will be crucial to winning the election.
Christie warned the state's delegates Thursday not to take anything for granted and to work hard for the GOP ticket for so Romney can focus on tossup states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Rep. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, echoed that warning.
"Everybody's ready to get on the road and go out with all their friends and knock on doors in other states," said Scott, the first black Republican congressman elected from South Carolina. "The first thing we need to do is make sure that the candidates that we've selected as Republicans first win in South Carolina."
Though the state chose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the GOP primary, Romney was the delegation's near-unanimous choice for president during state-by-state balloting at the convention on Tuesday.
Twenty-four of South Carolina's 25 delegates picked Romney. Only one chose Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a sign that fiscal conservatives and tea party members have coalesced behind the former Massachusetts governor.
The latest polls in South Carolina show Romney leading Obama by 7 percent to 15 percent, according to RealClearPolitics, an online political analysis site.
Greenville lawyer Stephen Brown, a convention alternate who did not attend the event, said Republicans should hammer away at Obama's handling of the economy and highlight the growth of government under his watch.
"We need to make clear that we need to rein in the federal government back into its constitutional boundaries," he said in a telephone interview. "We need to get control of the federal budget."
Romney trails Obama among women and minorities, but Spartanburg County GOP Chair LaDonna Ryggs said the convention should have helped change that by stressing that the poor economy has hurt women, especially single moms, more than men.
"You're going to see from here on out more women getting involved and taking some leadership positions to make sure that women understand ... (Obama) has failed us," Ryggs said.
Tuesday's night speech by Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, also will help close the gap with women, Ryggs said. Ann Romney described her husband's softer side in an attempt to humanize a man viewed by many as robotic and aloof.
Convention organizers showcased minority and women speakers to portray the party as diverse, but the GOP delegates were overwhelmingly white.
Scott spoke on Tuesday, the convention's opening day, followed that night by Haley, who talked about her Indian-American heritage.
Gingrich, who made a surprise appearance Thursday at the South Carolina delegation's breakfast meeting, urged delegates to tell retirees the GOP aims to shore up Medicare and won't dismantle the program, as Democrats claim.
Republicans must be more aggressive in about battling Democrats and spreading the GOP's message, Gingrich said.
"This is an election we can win by an enormous margin if we have the courage to get in their face, stay in their face and not back down," he said to applause.