Mitt Romney is having one helluva September. A week ago, he released an undignified statement on the turmoil in the Middle East and then doubled down on it. Sunday night and into Monday morning, he had to put on a happy face as his campaign staff shanked the top strategist in an exhaustive takedown in Politico. And then late Monday afternoon, secretly recorded video showed the Republican presidential nominee trashing half the nation as people “who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Given all that, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Romney campaign cannot do anything right. But when I asked Sara Fagen at The Atlantic’s “Women of Washington” breakfast today to name three things the campaign has done right, the former political director to President George W. Bush had a ready response.
“The selection of Paul Ryan was a really good move” for Romney, Fagen said. “The follow-on from the pick was strong. I think Romney was trailing and [Ryan] tightened it up going in.” The strengths the Wisconsin congressman brings to the table, she said, are a seriousness on entitlement reform and his stature as the next generation of Republican leadership.
Unfortunately, Ryan’s voice on entitlement reform has been muted in the campaign. As Michael Gerson wrote last week, “Romney's message is untouched by his running mate’s revolutionary fiscal realism. Romney chose Ryan, not Ryanism.” Yet, I have no doubt that if elected Ryan, currently chair of the House Budget Committee, would be heard loud and clear.
Everyone knows that the Obama campaign has invested heavily in new technology, but Fagen said that not enough attention was being paid to what the Romney campaign was doing on this front. “They are doing some really innovative things on the Internet. They are doing some really innovative things on television targeting,” Fagen said in discussing the second thing GOP challenger has gotten right. “And I think that when you peel back the curtain after the campaign, you’ll find that while Obama may have spent more on these things, I think what Mitt Romney actually did is smart.”
The third thing Romney has done right, according to Fagen, is that he has invested in the future leadership of the Republican Party. “As a Republican and as a woman, I was really proud watching our convention. I saw [New Mexico Gov.] Susana Martinez. I saw [former Secretary of State] Condi Rice. I saw [congressional candidate] Mia Love out of Utah,” Fagen said as she rattled off the deep bench of the GOP. “There are some great faces in the Republican Party [and] Romney really shined a spotlight on them.”
Republicans at the convention in Tampa weren’t terribly enthusiastic about their nominee. However, the one thing that got the Republicans I talked to there excited was the deep bench of talent the party has for 2016 and beyond. Can’t say that I blame them. Some of the most exciting speeches came from these up-and-comers who treated the presidential nominee as an afterthought. That Romney allowed them some time in the sun is a good thing for his party and this country.