On the night vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan made his debut on the national stage, the GOP turned its attention to America's influence abroad and what the party sees as President Barack Obama's failed economic policies. The roster of speakers at the Republican National Convention boasted two of the party's foreign policy heavy hitters and rhetoric designed to appeal to voters who are still undecided. Here are five things we learned from the convention's second night:
1. Romney's enforcer comes to play
On Tuesday, the GOP convention was about love (Ann Romney) and respect (Chris Christie).
But to the chagrin of head-scratching Republicans eager to take the fight to President Barack Obama, there wasn't much talk in the Tampa Bay Times Forum about the current administration in Washington.
Paul Ryan put those anxieties to rest on Wednesday with a lengthy, aggressive and systematic attack on Obama's record in office, with one question as the thesis: "Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?"
Ryan, criticized by Democrats as the architect of a budget plan that would gut Medicare, went on offense on the issue in the heart of retiree-heavy Florida.
"The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we are going to stop it," he said.
There were also flashes of biography as the Wisconsin congressman tried to introduce himself to a country still learning about Mitt Romney's running mate.
But it was clear from his sharpened rhetoric that the Romney campaign sent Ryan onstage to make the case against Obama.
He described Obamacare as a cold "power play," condemned Solyndra as "cronyism at its worst" and said the president is "forever shifting blame."
Then there was this line, sure to be remembered for its trenchant appeal to younger voters who had hoped for more from Obama: "College graduates should not have to live out their 20's in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life."
Responding in a statement, Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Ryan "offered Americans 40 minutes of vitriol and a half-dozen previously debunked attacks, but not one tangible idea to move this country forward."
2. On weak spots, let surrogates shine
Republicans' nearly singular focus on the economy took a back seat Wednesday when Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the stage to talk foreign policy, a topic Mitt Romney makes little mention of on the stump and that has been largely absent from the national political debate.
Romney faces a solid foreign policy record from the current president, who voters consistently say in polls would better handle America's relationships with other countries if re-elected. In the latest CNN/ORC International survey released earlier this week, President Barack Obama had a 51 percent-44 percent advantage over Romney on foreign policy.
Facing those facts, the Romney campaign chose Wednesday to use conservatives with well-established foreign policy credentials to make the case that Obama has failed a test of leadership in key international hot spots, including in Syria and Iran.
"Unfortunately, for four years, we've drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership, traditions that are truly bipartisan," McCain said. "We've let the challenges we face, both at home and abroad, become harder to solve. We can't afford to stay on that course any longer."
Rice echoed many of the same themes. The former secretary of state said Romney and Ryan "know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us," what she said was Obama's weakness on the international stage.
Yet even Rice turned back to the economy, saying when the world looks at the United States, "they see an American government that cannot live within its means."
Rice and McCain's remarks were a brief side track to a convention overwhelmingly focused on blaming Obama for the weak economy and how Romney plans to fix it. As Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos noted, neither campaign thinks foreign policy will make a big difference to voters struggling with high unemployment and stagnant wages.
"It's not going to matter at the end," Castellanos said. "Both campaigns, I think, but especially the (Romney) campaign, wants to move on to the economy. And Barack Obama now has the experience, four years as commander-in-chief. So I put that is a plus for the Democrats in the fall."
3. Faith does matter
Four years ago, as they were battling for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee questioned Romney's Mormon faith.
Four years later, as he addressed the Republican convention in prime time, the former Arkansas governor had a very different message.
"I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country," said Huckabee, who still wields influence among social conservatives. Some in that key component of the Republican base still harbor suspicions of Romney 's faith.