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Right Turn
Posted at 12:42 PM ET, 11/02/2012

Romney’s rhetorical best, from Wisconsin

If Mitt Romney wins Wisconsin, it may be because of the speech. If he loses the election it might be argued it was because he didn’t give that speech at the convention. But whatever the outcome, the speech Romney gave in Wisconsin today was the best written and best delivered of his campaign, probably of his political life.

There were some lovely, memorable flourishes: “The door to a brighter future is there, open, waiting for us. I need your vote, I need your help. Walk with me, walk together. Let us start anew.” “Walk with me” was the grace note, a welcome variation from exhortations to follow politicians. And there was some effective parallel structure (maybe the most compelling rhetorical form when done well):

You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress. He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy. The President was right when he said he can’t change Washington from the inside. In this case, you can take him at his word.
When I am elected, I will work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress. I will meet regularly with their leaders. I will endeavor to find those good men and women on both sides of the aisle who care more about the country than about the politics. Together, we will put the nation on track to a balanced budget, to reform our tax code, and to finally reaffirm our commitment to financial responsibility.
You know that if the President is re-elected, he will continue his war on coal and oil and natural gas. He will send billions more dollars to his favorite solar and wind companies. And all of this will guarantee higher energy prices at the pump and fewer jobs. Today, gas costs twice what it did when President Obama was elected.
When I am elected, we will change course on energy. I know just how much energy means to middle-class families. We can help hold down prices at the pump and grow new energy jobs and manufacturing jobs. . ..
You know that if the President is re-elected, he will say every good thing he can about education, but in the final analysis, he will do what his largest campaign supporters — the public-sector unions — insist upon. And your kids will have the same schools with the same results.
When I am president, I will be a voice of the children and their parents. There is no union for the PTA. I will give parents the information they need to know if their school is failing, and the choice they need to pick the school where their child can succeed.

Again, in a well-crafted speech, a deft turn of phrase is dropped in: “There is no union for the PTA.”

As for the meat of the speech, this was Romney’s closing argument; he did his best job to date comparing Obama’s recovery in name only and the promise of a real recovery (“We have almost forgotten what a real recovery looks like”). He also, more effectively than at the convention, set out the “two visions” and then put some meat on the bones of his own agenda.

The contrast was summed up after a recitation of the president’s failure to make good on his economic promises: “President Obama promised change, but he could not deliver it. I promise change, and I have a record of achieving it.” While Romney certainly set up a vivid ideological contrast (government-centric vs. business-centric), the heart of his appeal was the contrast between a hyper-partisan president and a bipartisan executive:

You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress. He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy. The President was right when he said he can’t change Washington from the inside. In this case, you can take him at his word.
When I am elected, I will work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress. I will meet regularly with their leaders. I will endeavor to find those good men and women on both sides of the aisle who care more about the country than about the politics. Together, we will put the nation on track to a balanced budget, to reform our tax code, and to finally reaffirm our commitment to financial responsibility.

Plainly, Romney is going after the independent voters who are likely to tip the balance in closely fought states.

Most striking, however, was the detail he added to his five-point agenda that has often seemed more like a laundry list than an agenda in the campaign:

People across the country are responding to our five-part plan to create jobs.
Part one is about taking full advantage of our energy resources. On Day One, I will act to increase the number of leases and permits to drill on federal lands. I will act to speed the approval of the Keystone pipeline from Canada. I will re-visit coal regulations that were designed by the administration to strangle the industry. On Day One, we will be closer to energy independence.
Second, I will move to boost trade, especially with Latin America. I will ask Congress for Trade Promotion Authority, a power every president has used or requested since it was first created in 1974, with the exception of President Obama. And I will finally designate China as a currency manipulator. It is time for trade that works for America.
Third, I will send to Congress the Retraining Reform Act, to make sure that every worker who feels left behind in this economy can get the skills and the chance for a good-paying job.
Fourth, I will move to tackle out-of-control spending. I will send Congress the first of several fundamental reforms called the Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act, to immediately cut — not just slow the rate of growth — but cut non-security discretionary spending by 5%. I’m not just going to take office on January 20th — I’m going to take responsibility for the office as well.
And fifth, I will act to boost small business, and all business. I will issue executive orders aimed straight at the problems that are holding this economy back.
The first will grant state waivers from Obamacare, to begin its repeal.
The second will launch a sweeping review of all Obama-era regulations with an eye to eliminating or repairing those that are killing jobs and small businesses.

Romney’s best rhetorical moment of the campaign has come very late, perhaps too late to make adequate use of in the waning days of the race. That said, it will get some media buzz (the instant pundit reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive), in no small part because it had new elements that a bored news corps haven’t heard before. In a race of inches, Romney might have pick up 1 / 2 foot or so.

By  |  12:42 PM ET, 11/02/2012

 
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