WASHINGTON — Blunt-talking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been chosen to deliver the keynote address at the Republican convention, the party said Tuesday, in a sign of his rising star-power.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) also said that freshman Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another popular new face in the party, will introduce Romney at the August 27-30 convention in Tampa, Florida.
Both are extremely popular among conservatives, and had been seen as likely picks to be Romney's running mate before he tapped Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin last weekend.
Christie said he was honored to be asked to deliver the main convention speech, which gives promising figures the opportunity to address a national prime-time audience, often adding a major boost to their political careers.
Then-Senate candidate Barack Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention electrified the audience and is widely seen as the start of his meteoric rise to the presidency.
"The challenges we face as a country are great and require the honesty and boldness of the Romney-Ryan team," Christie said.
Last year, the 49-year-old Christie disappointed many Republicans by saying he would not run for president in 2012 because "now is not my time."
He had been seen as a credible opponent for Obama due to his popularity in the traditionally Democratic state, where he has served as governor since January 2010.
The governor has "fearlessly tackled his state's most difficult challenges, while looking out for hardworking taxpayers," RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement announcing the choice.
But Christie is brash, aggressive and often uncensored, and his streams of invective have made the rounds on cable news and the Internet.
On the day Romney unveiled his running mate, Christie said the Romney-Ryan ticket was "uniquely positioned to make the tough choices necessary to confront our fiscal challenges and get results."
The choice of Rubio, who is Cuban-American, could be seen as a nod to Hispanics, who strongly favor Obama in the polls and could tilt key swing states like Florida and Colorado.
Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said Rubio "will play an important role in shaping the future of the Republican Party" and has been given "a showcase role on his party's biggest stage."
The raucous, nationally-televised convention, a longstanding tradition in US politics, formally nominates Romney and gives party grandees and rising stars the chance to showcase their speechmaking skills.
Romney -- a multimillionaire former venture capitalist and ex-governor of Massachusetts -- is seeking to portray himself as a business-friendly manager who can whip the sluggish US economy into shape.
Democrats are trying to cast Romney and Ryan -- who is known for a controversial budget plan -- as being bent on dismantling cherished social programs while showering the rich with tax cuts.
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