Mitt Romney was as relaxed and loose in his victory speech as we have seen him since New Hampshire. He had dodged a bullet in his home state (he conceded that he had not won by a lot) and steadied his campaign in time for Super Tuesday. In his remarks, he entirely ignored his opponents and went after the president’s record and the anemic recovery. “We need a recovery from this so-called recovery,” he cracked, reminding the crowd that President Obama had two years with a Democratic majority in Congress to enact any policies he wanted.
In ticking of the contrasts with the president on everything from Obamacare to taxes, Romney used the time to focus the race on the economy. He marched through his own fiscal and tax agenda, and in some detail. In doing so, he was plainly seeking to connect with Republicans around the country with the fiscal conservative message that helped him win in Michigan. Unlike previous speeches, he did not lead with his biography and only briefly recited his business background. By flipping the order he can, he no doubt hopes, get the attention of those who doubt his conservative bona fides.
In his closing, he set out his desired contrasts with Obama: an opportunity society vs. an entitlement society. (“He raised the national debt. I’ll cut, cap and balance the budget. He passed Obamacare. I’ll repeal it. We lost our AAA credit rating; I’ll restore it.”) When Romney is in his wheelhouse — setting out his conservative economic message and showing his command of details — he is also more authentic. That simple realization should guide the rest of his campaign. Trying to pose as the working man or sing (literally) conservative themes is of limited benefit to him. Rather, his speech suggests he will stick to who he is: A center-right candidate whose inclination is to follow free market principles and whose record shows he’s well equipped to lead and accomplish his goals. He does not thrill the conservative pundits, nor please the right-leaning social activists. But his dual wins Tuesday suggest he doesn’t need to do either and that substance is his best selling point.
Next Tuesday is another set of races. He won’t win them all, but the pressure is now off, at least temporarily. If nothing else, he’s once again entirely confounded the media meme that he is unpopular and floundering. That’s a start, at least, to accelerating his march to the nomination.