It seemed like forces were conspiring against the Republican national convention last week.

The media was playing up Todd Aiken’s immoderate remarks. Ron Paul’s supporters were threatening to broker or boycott the convention. And Hurricane Isaac was depositing rains of biblical proportions on the Gulf Coast.

But the Romney campaign did not panic. It remained resolute and stayed the course. It kept focused on the people, principles and policies that distinguish the Republican agenda.

It began when Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate. In doing so, Romney made a decision not to make some sort of appeal for votes from those in the middle of the political spectrum. He elected to sharpen the ideological divide between himself and the president.

The convention was crafted to illustrate that divide with speakers who personified the American Dream: that with hard work you can start from humble origins and build a business, become a congressman, a governor, a stateswoman, even president. They gave eloquent testimony about the goodness of Romney as a person, and the virtues of the policies he proposes for America.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley introduced herself as the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who came to America, started a business, and built it into a multimillion-dollar company. As governor, she worked to encourage private enterprise, like Boeing, to come to her state. But it wasn’t easy, because the Obama administration fought her. She explained that as president, Mitt Romney would support business, not oppose, business development.

Ann Romney told the audience how her husband is a hard-working businessman who will work hard to restore American prosperity. He was not handed success on a silver platter. He did not go into the family business. He built his own with hard work.

Romney is a good Samaritan. He quietly helps his neighbors, a friend in trouble or a parent whose child is in the hospital. He saved the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Guided Massachusetts out of economic crisis. Ann Romney explained that he is modest about his good works because he doesn’t do them to win political points;  he does them because helping others is its own reward.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke of how his parents raised themselves up from poverty. How he gets his own plain-spoken bluntness from his mother, who was the family enforcer. She taught him that it was better to be respected than loved, because love without respect is fleeting, while respect can grow into real and lasting love.

Christie delivered the tough-love truth about the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats believe that people cannot solve their problems themselves, that they need government to do it for them. Republicans believe that we can fix our own problems with good values and leadership. In New Jersey, he inherited a history of raising taxes and an $11 billion dollar deficit. People said that it would be impossible, but Christie balanced the budget and lowered taxes.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee noted that in addition to the at least 13 percent of income that Mitt Romney pays in taxes, he gives 16 percent to charity and his church. Huckabee pointed out that for years, Vice President Joe Biden gave less than 2/10s of 1 percent to charity.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice observed that the Arab Spring is proof that the desire for freedom is universal. She argued that the world is a better place when America clearly and unambiguously stands for freedom and opportunity. It is a more dangerous and chaotic place when, as now, friends and foes don’t know where America stands.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez emphasized that success is not something to be ashamed of or demonized – it should be celebrated. She explained how a little girl from a border town grew up to be the first Hispanic woman governor of a state. Her parents started a security guard business with nothing and grew it into a small business that employed 125 employees in three states. She went to law school, became a prosecutor, then the district attorney, then governor. As governor, she inherited the largest structural deficit in state history, but turned it into a surplus.

Former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy recalled how as governor, Mitt Romney assembled a cabinet of the best and the brightest men and women, Republicans and Democrats. He cut taxes, improved education, and turned around a $3 billion deficit.

Ryan, Romney’s running mate, pointed out that the president has been in power for almost four years. Rather than use that power to make job creation his first order of business, he borrowed and wasted trillions of dollars on government programs like the stimulus and government-controlled health care. As a result, 23 million Americans are struggling to find work. Instead of accepting responsibility for that failure, Obama continues to blame the prior administration.

Ryan promised that he and Romney will not duck the tough issues. They will take responsibility, reapply our country’s founding principles, limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP or less, reform taxes and regulations, generate 12 million new jobs, and get the economy growing.

Romney and Obama are both decent, honorable men. But they personify very different experiences of, and visions for, America. They provide us with a very real choice in November. The president puts his faith in government: the stimulus, bank bailout, bailout for Detroit, cash for clunkers, mortgage restructuring, and government mandated health care.

Romney puts his faith in people’s ability to provide for themselves.

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Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.