TAMPA, Fla. -- If Artur Davis was bothered by his newfound status as a lightning rod for criticism, it didn't show. The former Alabama congressman strolled across the lobby of his hotel Sunday evening, nearly expressionless and in no hurry, as storm clouds gathered outside.

Davis, 44, is an African-American former Democrat who switched to the Republican party earlier this year and is now supporting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Davis has so fully embraced his new political party that he will be one of the featured speakers Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention. The Democratic National Committee thought enough of Davis' presence in the GOP convention program that it cut a video aimed at taking Davis down a notch.

As Davis walked into the lobby restaurant with a reporter from The Huffington Post, wearing a suit and opened-collar white shirt, no tie, Democratic consultant Donna Brazile sat at a table in the corner eating dinner with a friend. She needled him gently, telling him to go easy on the criticism of his former party. Davis, not one much for jokes, bantered lightly for a moment, then walked a few tables over and sat down to field questions about what he would be saying on Tuesday night.

"You know, I'm not going to preview the speech," he said. And then he launched into a 10-minute explanation of who he thinks his audience is. Hint: it's not black Democrats.

"The word race does not appear in this speech. The word African-American does not appear in this speech," Davis said.

Davis, who moved to Northern Virginia with his wife in 2011 and is thought to be interested in running for Congress in the commonwealth as a Republican, said he had a very specific, strategic goal behind his speech.

"While my leaving the party has gotten attention for predictable reasons -- a former Obama supporter, African-American elected official and all that -- the reality is that according to Gallup, 9 percent of Obama supporters do not plan to vote for Barack Obama. He got 70 million votes. That translates, even by my math, into 6.3 million people," Davis said.

Logical, and on target. Davis, the son of a single mother, who grew up Montgomery, Ala., and graduated from Harvard Law School two years after President Barack Obama, is also not one much for emotion, or at least any observable displays of it.

"Mitt Romney can win this election simply on the votes of disaffected Obama supporters," said Davis, his hair shaped in a vague flat top. "That makes them a very pivotal strategic group ... It's important I think to talk about why they've moved, what set of forces and what set of issues have caused them to move. That's obviously going to be the cast of what my remarks will be."

But when a man who was co-chair of President Obama's 2008 campaign, a prominent African-American member of Congress and a candidate for governor of Alabama (he lost the 2010 Democratic primary) suddenly goes Republican -- and is quickly one of the most high-profile black Republican politicians on the national scene -- it's hard to keep race out of the picture.

Former Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.), who was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus during his time in Congress, wrote an opinion column that appeared on HuffPost Sunday, characterizing Davis as a traitor for making his decision.

"Very few principles are involved in this opportunistic Judas conversion," Owens wrote. "To clinch his thirty pieces of silver Artur Davis has now openly placed himself on the auction block."

Owens also wrote that Davis was among a group of "highly visible Blacks who are willing to spit on Martin Luther King's dream" in exchange for "extravagant rewards." In Davis' case, Owens wrote, the former Democrat was pursuing "right wing wealth."

"Tune in to the Artur Davis show at the Republican convention and you will see that when the right picks up a smooth, double-talking Harvard Law School graduate it can be satisfied that it has made a profitable trip to the new 21st Century auction block," Owens wrote.

Subtle.

Race is the unavoidable issue for many when it comes to Davis. And he has engaged on the issue recently, accusing the Obama campaign of using race for political advantage in a column for National Review. To HuffPost, Davis said the Obama campaign has wielded race "as a sword and a shield."

But he insisted his speech Tuesday night would not dwell on race. How, exactly?

"Very easy. Don't mention it," Davis said with a chuckle.

"Most of those 6.3 million didn't leave because of race," he said, referring to disaffected 2008 Obama voters. "Very few of them are African-American. So because this is a talk about that group of 6.3 million individuals, very few of whom are African-American, it would be off point for me to really talk about race. There are other settings for me to do that, when it's appropriate. This is not one of them."

Davis is locked in on something that will, in fact, be a huge factor in the 10 weeks between now and the Nov. 6 election. This reporter met Davis after coming from a focus group run by Republican consultant Frank Luntz. Some are skeptical of Luntz given his partisan leanings, but one thing was clear from the 23 people in the room with him: most said they voted for Obama in 2008, and many were disappointed with the president, even if they still like him.

As for the GOP's relationship with minorities, Davis said there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

"The African-American loyalty to the president is very intense and very powerful and very personal," he said. "That's not something that's going to be dislodged."

But "over time" Davis said Republicans can make progress if they become "comfortable not just talking about conservatism as a defense of liberty, but as an instrument for expanding social mobility and opportunity."

He sounded a lot like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who criticized Romney for not speaking more directly to those in the middle and lower economic rungs of America. And in fact, the first name out of Davis' mouth was Daniels, when asked who is articulating this kind of case for conservatism.

"There are some conservatives who are very comfortable defining the movement as being one of defending the economic liberty of Americans," Davis said. "That's a part of conservatism but that can't be the whole of conservatism. If that's the whole of conservatism, it means the party is not making a case to a chunk of Americans whose primary concern when they get up in the morning is frankly not protecting their liberty, but rising, having upward mobility, having ability to move from lower class to middle class to upper class."

"If you say to them, the dominant question is we're going to protect you from a European style social democracy, you'll lose them," he said. "They're wondering if they can climb the economic ladder, and they wonder whether or not the government is an impediment or an asset to them. So I think conservatism has to be broader and more textured than a defense of economic liberty."

It was clear, though, that Owens' column had gotten under Davis' skin.

"I was frankly amused by Major's piece, and candidly it took me a second to remember who Major was," Davis said. He also noted that Owens accused him of voting in favor of the Iraq war, but that the October 2002 vote took place before he took office in January 2003.

"Frankly, it led me to wonder whether Huffington Post does anything other than print anything they're given. Literally, with all due respect to your publication, it literally led me to wonder, are there any standards other than I send you a PDF file, we'll spell check it and we'll put it up there?" he said.

Davis is noncommittal about whether he'll run for Congress in Virginia. But that's not his only option, depending on the outcome of the fall election. Conservative writer John Fund on Monday floated Davis as a possible Justice Department appointee in a Romney administration.

Davis was bullish about Romney's chances: "I think the Democrats underestimated Romney. I think there was a belief that Obama would go into these conventions with a 10-point lead."

But he added an echo of the critique that Daniels leveled in April.

"Romney still needs to make the sale that he has a credible plan to create shared prosperity in this country," Davis said.

The interview wrapped up, and Davis headed off to appear on Fox News with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). His biggest dilemma, he said, was whether to wear a tie.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, left and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves to delegates after his speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney acknowledges delegates before speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan and his wife Janna salute delegates following Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. Behind is Mitt Romney and his wife Ann. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves to delegates before speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney acknowledges delegates before speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hugs a supporter as he walks to the stage during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney makes his way through delegates before speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, cheers as Olympians are introduced during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, right, and his wife Janna applaud during Florida Senator Marco Rubio's speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, right, along with Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, applaud during Florida Senator Marco Rubio's speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Marco Rubio

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Marco Rubio

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Clint Eastwood

    Actor Clint Eastwood addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressed delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Tom Stemberg, founder and former CEO of Staples speaks to delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Bob White

    Chairman of the Romney-Ryan Campaign Bob White addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Pam Finlayson

    Pam Finlayson addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Frantz Placide and Sean Duffy, center, listen to Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, left, as he speaks during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Jeb Bush

    Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush steps onstage to speak to delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Oscar Poole

    Oscar Poole from Ellijay, Ga., wears his hat at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista walk onto the stage to speak to delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista speak to delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Herman Cain recites the Pledge of Allegiance during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Connie Mack

    Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., answers questions during a press conference in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Stagehands make final adjustments to the expanded stage where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will accept his party's nomination later tonight a the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Protesters yell as Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • A delegate holds up a mask of Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Jeb Bush

    FILE In this Aug. 27, 2012 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush looks at the convention floor from the podium during a microphone check at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

  • Stagehands make final adjustments to the expanded stage where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will accept his party's nomination later tonight a the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan waves toward the delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Sam Ryan yawns in his mother's arms while Janna listen to her husband Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan's speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. Right is Charlie Ryan. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, applauds with Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan's wife during Paul Ryan's speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan speaks to delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Condoleezza Rice

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Susana Martinez

    New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Condoleezza Rice

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Mike Huckabee

    Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Mike Huckabee

    Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Mike Huckabee

    Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan's wife Janna, left, sits next to his mother Betty Ryan Douglas during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Tim Pawlenty

    Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Rob Portman

    Ohio Senator Rob Portman addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Rob Portman

    Ohio Senator Rob Portman addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • John Thune

    South Dakota Senator John Thune gestures to the delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Rob Portman

    Ohio Senator Rob Portman waves to the delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)