“Mitt Romney needs to introduce himself to the American public,” former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told Human Events shortly before Romney delivered his long-awaited acceptance speech. “The public doesn’t really know him. He’s the challenger to a sitting president and, unless you’re Ronald Reagan, not many challengers are well-known. If Gov. Romney can do that tonight, then he’s off to a good start against Obama.”
A few hours later, preceded by speakers who knew him in business, church, and the Olympics he once oversaw, and as governor of Massachusetts, the 65-year-old Romney took to the convention podium and clearly lived up to the bar set by Barbour. In the process, the former Massachusetts governor and business executive drew the sharp contrasts he needed to draw between himself and Barack Obama.
In spelling out his agenda of a no-tax, small government, and opportunity society, the businessman-candidate also reached out to social conservatives — who have long mistrusted him — vowing to protect “the sanctity of life.”
Calling on conventioneers and a national television audience to “walk with me to a better future,” Romney called on Americans to recapture what he called “the promise of America.” He spoke of freedom (including Americans’ “freedom to build a business with their hands”), opportunity, and the disappointment in Obama’s unfulfilled promises of four years ago.
Invoking the image of the recently-deceased Neil Armstrong and the moon landing of 1969, Romney told his cheering audience that for the big jobs, “You need an American.” He also spoke of his parents’ great love for each other, his father George Romney’s rags-to-riches rise to become governor of Michigan, his mother Lenore’s race for the U.S. Senate, and how his mother paved the way for today’s women leaders in politics. And he spoke of his own marriage, children, and business “helping others start businesses.”
Charging that Obama is “attacking success,” Romney declared: “In America, we don’t attack success. We celebrate success.” Every president since the Great Depression could seek re-election saying Americans “are better off than they were four years ago, except Jimmy Carter and this president.”
“What this country needs are jobs—lots of jobs,” said the businessman-candidate, charging that the Obama agenda did “not create jobs, it depressed them.” He denounced the President’s “assault on coal and energy,” his Obamacare legislation, and “his trillion dollar deficits,” all of which drew lusty boos from the crowds.
Romney then spelled out why he could make his promise to “create 12 million new jobs”—energy independence; education reform (“Every parent will have a choice”), new trade opportunities, and to “cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.” He also vowed to reduce taxes on business and simplify regulation and to lead the fight “for repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
“And unlike President Obama,” vowed the nominee, “I will not raise taxes on the middle class.”
He even touched on foreign policy, vowing that under a Romney Administration, “our allies will see a little more loyalty” and “[Russian President] Putin will see a little less flexibility.”
Judging by the prolonged cheers on the convention floor and the enthusiasm of delegates leaving the convention hall, the speech was a success.
Some conservatives in Tampa had lingering concerns that their nominee from Massachusetts could not rally grass-roots activists on the right. As former Rep. and longtime conservative activist Steve Stockman (R.-Tex.) told us, “Mitt has to reach out to the conservative hearts.”
This the nominee did repeatedly.
As numerous conventioneers told us, Mitt Romney had some “tough acts to follow” in concluding a week of widely-praised speeches, notably those by wife Ann Romney and running mate Paul Ryan last night. But his primary task was a different one: it was to get the American public to know him better. In doing so, Romney begins the most important leg of the race against Barack Obama with a good start.
Read more at Human Events here.
(John Gizzi is political editor of Human Events. Originally posted on The Michigan View.)