Antonio Villaraigosa crashes the Republican National Convention

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa began his work as chairman of the Democratic National Convention a week early on Monday — when he crashed the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Mitt Romney Barack Obama Villaraigoa

President Barack Obama, stands and applauds, center right, after signing HR 4348, the Surface Transportation Bill, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 6, 2012. The bill maintains jobs on transportation projects and prevents interest rate increases on new loans to millions of college students. Also applauding are Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, from left, and Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R. Villaraigosa. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Clearly intending to take some of the shine off what was supposed to be the Republicans’ time in the sun, Villaraigosa’s appearance fit in perfectly with Democrats’ designs — and stole some of the thunder from the GOP amid its Tropical Storm Isaac-caused disarray.

CNN was among the national media that quickly pulled now easily recognized Villaraigosa into a nationally televised interview just before the Republican convention was called to order and then immediately recessed.

Villaraigosa was quick to swat away any thoughts that his appearance — and that of other Barack Obama surrogates this week on national television shows — was a sign that the Democrats felt threatened, especially in the wake of new polls showing the presidential race to be a virtual dead heat.

At least one CNN poll shows Romney ahead of Obama among likely voters — 50 percent to 46 percent.

In the first of two interviews with CNN Monday, Villaraigosa made no secret that his appearance in Tampa was to help American voters “compare and contrast the candidates” and called this week’s GOP gathering “The Re-Invention Convention.”

“I think there’s an effort to bring in Madison Avenue type ad people to remake Governor Romney and Mr. Ryan,” he said, “and we want to set the record straight.

“It’s important for people to remember what they said during the primary season, what he’s done when he was in business, what he’s done as governor,” Villaraigosa said. “They talk a lot about job creation, and we know that he was 47th out of 50th, put more debt on the people per capita of Massachusetts during this time as governor than anybody else in the country.”

Villaraigosa dismissed the new polling by saying that he has always believed this will be an especially close election.

“This isn’t going to be a walk in the park for either candidate,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us given the economy and the fact that the country’s so polarized.

“At the end of day, it isn’t just about today, however. If you want to talk about the last 29 months, obviously the economy is coming up. We’ve created more jobs in the last four years than they did in the entire Bush years.”

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, part of the first Villaraigosa interview, called his unexpected role at the GOP Convention “obviously a bit of a spoiler here.”

Villaraigosa — who was swarmed by journalists — also told ABC that Romney is vulnerable to being portrayed as a political opportunist because of the extreme conservative positions he took during this rugged primary battles against right wing darlings Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

“I suspect that they are not going to be able to Etch-a-Sketch their way out of this campaign,” Villaraigosa said about Romney’s attempts to reset his campaign message.

“They’re not going to be able to put away all the things they said in the primary and all the things they have in their platform right now.”

Later Monday, Villaraigosa had an almost flirtatious one-on-one interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, which may have caused many in Los Angeles to look backward on their mayor.

Villaraigosa’s long marriage ended in 2007 because of an affair with a beautiful Los Angeles television anchor. He then had a year-and-a-half live-in relationship with another attractive local TV anchor who was a former Miss USA.

It was Baldwin who playfully tried to get Villaraigosa to concede that the Democrats now felt threatened by the Romney-Ryan ticket. The Los Angeles mayor refused to answer the question directly.

Then Baldwin tossed out the question that has been getting laughs throughout Los Angeles since Yahoo News raised the outlandish idea in a story a month ago — that Villaraigosa, a Democratic mayor who has to leave office next July, has his sights on the White House.

Villaraigosa also sidestepped that question.

“I’ll tell you what you’re going to see — I’m going to take a time out for reflection,” he said. “I love my job. I’m going to focus on my job.

“When people ask me, “what’s the mayor of Los Angeles doing in Charlotte or Tampa?’ I say, ‘It matters who’s in the White House. Who’s in the majority in Congress.’

“I’m not looking to run for anything right now.”

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