Mitt Romney will use the biggest speech of his career to urge Americans to put the "disappointment" of Barack Obama's last four years behind them and put him in the White House instead.
In a speech aimed at tens of thousands of party activists at the Republican convention in Tampa and millions of voters watching at home, he will set out what is to be a major campaign theme for the gruelling months ahead: disillusionment with Obama among those who voted for him in 2008.
In excerpts of the speech issued in advance, he said: "Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us."
Americans had voted for "hope and change", Obama's 2008 campaign slogan, but instead ended up with disappointment and division, Romney said.
In a claim that has to be met with a large degree of scepticism, especially given the barely-hidden glee with which Republicans welcome each new set of poor unemployment statistics, Romney said: "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help we will do something."
Romney, who has been actively campaigning for the presidency for the last five years, added: "So here we stand. Americans have a choice. A decision."
The speech is potentially a make-or-break moment for Romney. He has been forced on the defensive by the Obama campaign team for months and faced a series of gaffes and unexpected setbacks such as Hurricane Isaac which forced the cancellation of the opening day of the convention.
The speech is one of the few remaining opportunities for Romney to break away from Obama, with the two tied in the polls for months. Although the former Massachussetts governor has been out on the road campaigning for months, this has been largely ignored by the vast majority of American voters. It is only from this week onwards that most begin to look seriously at the candidates, and Romney badly needs a bounce in the polls from the convention.
Seen by many as an elsuive candidate, the speech is expected to confront what Republicans admit are two of his bigggest weaknesses: his controversial Mormon religion, in which he was a bishop, and his record at Bain Capital, the company where he made his fortune but which was responsible for laying of thousands of American workers.
He will also lay out a five-point plan for American recovery – albeit one that was extremely vague – which promises to create 12 million new jobs within four years. Another excerpt included a thinly-veiled threat of a trade war with China. "When nations cheat in trade there will be unmistakable consequences," he said.
Before the speech, a series of members of the Mormon church are expected to tell the convention about his role as bishop, including two families he helped through hard times.
Romney almost never discusses his religion, which is derided by many Christian evangelicals, the bedrock of the Republican party, as a cult. His campaign team hope is that their antagonism towards Mormonism will be overriden by their hostility towards Obama.
In another excerpt, he said: "Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church. When we were new to the community it was welcoming and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church."
Badly trailing Obama in the polls among women, he will target female voters, devoting a large passage to his mother, who ran for the senate, and the women who had come through the ranks of the Republican party.
"When my mom ran for the senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, 'Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?' I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like governor Mary Fallin, governor Nikki Haley, governor Susana Martinez, senator Kelly Ayotte and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
"As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant-governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies."
The Oscar-winning director and actor Clint Eastwood, who had earlier endorsed Romney, was expected to make an appearance before Romney delivered the speech.
Having formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination, he will hit the campaign trail with running-mate Paul Ryan in Virginia on Friday at the start of of what will be a gruelling two months.
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