A few thoughts on Romney's speech.
1. We heard precious little about Mitt Romney's plans for the country. By my count, Barack Obama's 2008 convention speech spent 768 words describing his domestic and economic policies. Romney's speech spent 260 words. There was almost no mention -- and absolutely no description -- of his budget, tax, health care or Medicare plans.
2. The only policy idea he described in any detail was his five-point plan "to create 12 million new jobs." The plan is more domestic energy production, more free trade agreements, more skills development, more deficit reduction, and cutting taxes and regulations. It is difficult to see how these policies -- most of which would take some time to work -- would address the jobs crisis we're in right now. But perhaps they don't have to. Romney's target of 12 million jobs over the next four years happens to be the same number of jobs the economic forecasting firm Moody's Analytics expects us to add even without major policy changes.
3. Here's Romney's theory of why Obama failed: "The President hasn’t disappointed you because he wanted to. The President has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government." But if business experience is the key qualification for a president, why did Romney pick Paul Ryan, who has spent even less time in the private sector than Obama, to be his vice president?
4. The most devastating line in Romney's speech: "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."
5. Perhaps it was just me, but I had trouble following the basic thread of the speech, at least during the first half of the speech. Structurally, it began with a riff on how our forefathers came to this country looking for freedom. Then there was a section on the economic pain and personal disappointment Americans are feeling. Then a quick attack on Obama. Then came a riff on Neil Armstrong. Then Romney's biography. Then a longer attack on Obama's record. Then a brief look at Romney's policies. Then the final exhortation. As the line goes, it was a beginning, a muddle, and an end.
6. Romney's speech included a number of riffs at odds with his policies. For instance: "Nearly one out of six Americans is living in poverty. Look around you. These are not strangers. These are our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans." There is simply no way, given the nature of Romney's budget promises, that programs for the poor won't be slashed to the bone. Similarly, he spent some time extolling the virtues of NASA, but it's also hard to imagine that program surviving the 40 percent cut to all non-Medicare, non-Social Security, non-defense spending that Romney's budget envisions.
7. The biographical portion of Romney's speech was very strong. I'm not among those who thinks Romney needed to be "humanized." He always struck me as a good, decent family man. But if you did think he needed to be humanized, he probably did an effective job of answering the concern.
8. But there was a glaring omission from Romney's biography: He made almost no mention of his time as governor of Massachusetts. In fact, the only thing he said about it was: "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." There was nothing on his health-care bill, his budgets, his ability to work with the Democrats in the state legislature...
9. Whoever planned the convention failed Romney terribly. The first night lacked a clear case for Romney, but ended with a rousing argument for Chris Christie in 2016. The second night was better, but the case Paul Ryan made still seemed to fit Ryan better than it fit Romney. And putting Clint Eastwood in prime time to interview an empty chair on the night of Romney's acceptance speech was an absolute disaster. That was time that could have been used to show the incredibly well-produced video about Romney's life, or to feature a speech from someone who has known or worked with Romney.
10. Speaking of which, you should read the full transcript of Clint Eastwood's speech. The Obama campaign's response also deserves to be quoted. "Referring all questions on this to Salvador Dalí," campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt e-mailed to reporters.
11. All in all, Romney's speech was...fine. I doubt he did himself any harm. And I'm sure he'll get some sort of a convention bump. But it felt like a missed opportunity for him to close the deal. The American people already know that they're not happy with the economy. Tonight was Romney's chance to persuade them that he has a better way. But his speech really didn't even try to do that.
The full text of the speech is here. Judge for yourself.