TAMPA, FL - Governor Mitt Romney accepted his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States of America tonight, telling RNC delegates that voters face a clear choice in November. His remarks focused on his broad executive experience in both the private and public sectors, and the future he envisions for America. The basic message: Here's who I am. Here's where I come from and what I've done. Here are my values. Here's the current state of the union. And here are my solutions. Please join me. Like Paul Ryan last night, Romney drew contrasts with his opponent, but his criticisms generally seemed less barbed. His was a tone of disappointment, not anger:
But for too many Americans, these good days are harder to come by. How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America? Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I'd ask a simple question: 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.
Though he leads in most polls on voters' top three issues -- the economy, jobs and the debt -- the same surveys also show the GOP nominee suffering from a modest-to-large "gender gap" and a likeability deficit. Romney deliberately and aggressively took direct aim at both vulnerabilities this evening. He described the strong women who have surrounded him throughout his life and public career:
My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, “Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?” I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.
He went heavily biographical, seizing his chance to finally tell his story, unfiltered by attack ads and rich-guy stereotypes. Some passages were beautiful:
My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all – the gift of unconditional love. They cared deeply about who we would BE, and much less about what we would DO. Unconditional love is a gift that Ann and I have tried to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren. All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers. If every child could drift to sleep feeling wrapped in the love of their family – and God’s love -- this world would be a far more gentle and better place. Mom and Dad were married 64 years. And if you wondered what their secret was, you could have asked the local florist – because every day Dad gave Mom a rose, which he put on her bedside table. That's how she found out what happened on the day my father died – she went looking for him because that morning, there was no rose ...
I grew up in Detroit in love with cars and wanted to be a car guy, like my dad. But by the time I was out of school, I realized that I had to go out on my own, that if I stayed around Michigan in the same business, I’d never really know if I was getting a break because of my dad. I wanted to go someplace new and prove myself. Those weren’t the easiest of days – too many long hours and weekends working, five young sons who seemed to have this need to re-enact a different world war every night. But if you ask Ann and I what we’d give, to break up just one more fight between the boys, or wake up in the morning and discover a pile of kids asleep in our room. Well, every mom and dad knows the answer to that. Those days were toughest on Ann, of course. She was heroic. Five boys, with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then and I’d call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that doesn't help get the homework done or the kids out the door to school. I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine. And as America saw Tuesday night, Ann would have succeeded at anything she wanted to.
His subsequent discussion of Bain and its many successes signaled that Team Romney is prepared to go on offense over the candidate's time in the private sector. Obama's been pounding away all summer, distorting Romney's record. Voters are now hearing the other side of that story. On policy, Romney pledged to compartmentalize the myriad distractions of Washington and -- unlike President Obama -- focus intensely on what so many Americans need so desperately today: Jobs.
Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us. To put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations. To forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be. Now is the time to restore the Promise of America. Many Americans have given up on this president but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America. What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn't take a special government commission to tell us what America needs. What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.
Romney outlined his now-familiar five point plan for reducing unemployment, pledged to repeal Obamacare, affirmed the value of life and religious freedom, then delivered the line of the night:
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. (Laughter). My promise...is to help you and your family.
This statement drove a stake through the self-reverential vacuity of 2008's 'Hope and Change' mania, and underlined the difficult reality of our nation's current position, while assuring Americans that a President Romney understands how to prioritize and get to work. The nominee closed on an uplifting note, asking the American people to rally to his cause and build a better future:
Everywhere I go in America, there are monuments that list those who have given their lives for America. There is no mention of their race, their party affiliation, or what they did for a living. They lived and died under a single flag, fighting for a single purpose. They pledged allegiance to the UNITED States of America. That America, that united America, can unleash an economy that will put Americans back to work, that will once again lead the world with innovation and productivity, and that will restore every father and mother's confidence that their children's future is brighter even than the past. That America, that united America, will preserve a military that is so strong, no nation would ever dare to test it.
That America, that united America, will uphold the constellation of rights that were endowed by our Creator, and codified in our constitution. That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need. That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children. If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight.
Wednesday night was more electric, no question about it. Tonight felt more serious -- the freaky-deaky, yet mesmerizing, Clint Eastwood performance notwithstanding. Marco Rubio was sensational. He always delivers and makes it look easy, a rare talent. Rubio's message was moving and perfect for the moment: This nation is exceptional, there's a critical job to be done, and Mitt Romney is the man with the skills and experience to accomplish it. The nominee's speech was not flashy or overly dramatic, but that's not Romney. He needed to soften and define his personal image, draw clear differences between himself and the president he's challenging, convince Americans that he's prepared to lead, and appear credible and presidential. He accomplished these tasks. Success.