TAMPA–Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepted his party’s nomination Thursday night with a speech that was probably a triple or home run for him and a double for anyone else.
He did what he needed to do, with one big exception. He looked presidential, connected with his audience, and unleashed a stinging attack on President Obama that included some clever, novel arguments.
But to me at least, he didn’t offer a credible policy path to get from where we are to where he wants us to be, and remained very short on specifics. And stylistically I think the parts of this speech were better than the whole.
Yet this was the best one he’s given, certainly since his concise, almost eloquent victory speech in New Hampshire. It lacked the soaring rhetoric of Sen. Marco Rubio, who preceded him, but it got him off on the right foot with that undecided part of the electorate that’s just tuning in to the campaign.
It also targeted key groups Romney will need to win this tough election, especially women and independent voters who supported President Obama in 2008 but are disappointed in his performance. Here was Romney:
I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.
If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.
Every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: “you are better off today than you were four years ago.” Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president.
Romney also reached out to women voters—among whom he trails the president badly—through personal anecdotes about his wife Ann and especially his late mother in a way that touched the audience and left the stolid Romney shaking with emotion.
He neatly linked his personal experience to the glittering array of recently elected Republican women governors and senators who appeared on stage all week (mostly not in network prime time broadcasts) and by talking about his record in Massachusetts where half his staffers and cabinet were women.
His critique of the president’s economic record was sharply focused:
…This Obama economy has crushed the middle class. Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled. Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before.
Yet when it came to solutions, Romney came up short. He promised “jobs, lots of jobs,” some 12 million he said his economic plan would help create. The plan itself, however, is a mishmash of GOP bromides and ideas that have had mixed results:
- Make North America energy independent
- Increase school choice to improve education
- Forge new trade agreements
- Cut the deficit and move to a balanced budget, and, of course:
- Cut taxes on business, streamline regulations, and repeal Obamacare.
There was no mention, of course, of his proposed 20% cut in personal marginal tax rates—the Bush tax cuts on steroids–that his economic advisers argue will spur growth. Those tax cuts would blow a huge hole in the deficit, not reduce it.
Does this all add up to 12 million new jobs? I don’t think so.
When the convention started, I said Romney had to accomplish four things: tell us who he is, what he’s done, and what he stands for, and show America he’s his own man, not beholden to the extremists in his party. He certainly did the first two, and at least sketched out the direction in which he’d take the country. And though he didn’t call out GOP extremists directly, he came across as a solid, mainstream, genuine family man.
That was about as good as he could expect, and positions him well for the most critical part of the campaign, which starts now.