TAMPA, Fla. -- Hoping to counter Democratic claims that they are a threat to the middle class, Republicans are loading the Republican National Convention with frequent, obvious references to the party's roots in blue-collar America.

One speech after another followed the same log-cabin theme: The speaker is a first- or second-generation American whose immigrant parents or grandparents arrived here with nothing and -- in spite of burdensome government regulations and red tape -- built a successful business and brighter future for their families.

Their speeches are peppered with references to family and faith, and small-business owners are paraded onto the convention dais to talk about how hard life is under President Obama.

It's all part of the Republican Party's effort to retool its message to the middle class to counter polls showing most voters believe Mitt Romney's policies would favor the wealthy, while President Obama's policies would better serve the middle class. That's a narrative the president and Democrats have been hammering away at for months.

Since nine in 10 Americans consider themselves part of the middle class, Republicans are feeling an urgency about reversing that perception.

"I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, declared. "My parents started a business out of the living room of our home, and 30-plus years later, it was a multimillion-dollar company."

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval introduced himself to convention delegates as a "child of working-class Hispanic Americans who has lived the American Dream." And former Pennsylvania senator and one-time Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum dove right into his stump speech touting his Italian roots and his grandfather's life-long work in a coal mine.

"At age 7, my dad came to Johnstown, Pa., from the mountains of northern Italy, on a ship named Providence," Santorum said. "How providential that one day his son would announce for president just down the road from the deep mines where his father-- my grandfather -- mined coal 'til he was 72 years old."

Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., grew up "a poor kid ... in a single parent household," and Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, spoke of how her parents immigrated to the U.S. "with $10 in their pocket."

"When times got tough, they didn't look to Washington, they looked within," Love said.

Republicans are further underscoring their commitment to small business with a parade of business owners and blue-collar workers on the convention dais who claim Obama's policies were undermining their hard work.

They are the owners of metal factories and traffic sign producers, such as Jack Gilchrist, president of New Hampshire-based Gilchrist Metal Fabricating Co., and Phil Archuletta, owner of P&M Signs in New Mexico.

"From humble beginnings, I built a successful business," Gilchrist said. "But today, my business is at risk because of the Obama administration."