Mitt Romney, as expected, swept Tuesday’s primaries, putting an exclamation point on a nomination that has been certain for many weeks. Less expected, however, was the forcefulness of his victory speech delivered from New Hampshire. Like the pitcher on a winning run in “Bull Durham,” whatever Romney was doing he should keep doing (A new speechwriter? Lucky socks?). He gave a remarkable performance that left one wondering: Where has that Romney been?
After another warm and upbeat intro by Ann Romney (who joked that she vowed not to go through another campaign after 2008, but Mitt reminded her that she had five kids), Romney set out to accomplish four things in as well-crafted a speech as we have heard by any candidate in this election cycle.
First, he sought to dispel the image of a rich, unfeeling character that Obama’s team has sought to convey: “For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small-business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.”
Later in his remarks he came back to the empathy theme: “As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, the graduates who can’t get a job, the soldiers who return home to an unemployment line, it breaks my heart. This does not have to be. It is the result of failed leadership and of a faulty vision.” He didn’t thankfully pretend he was down on his luck or knew what it was like to lose your job, but he showed that empathy defies class.
Second, he sought to make this a referendum on President Obama’s economic performance: “Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump? If the answer were ‘yes’ to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his achievements…and rightly so. But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now. It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.” That’s about the most convincing argument he has for dumping Obama: the gap between high-minded rhetoric and lousy results.
Third, he painted a hugely optimistic vision (“poverty will be defeated”) based on freedom:
This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all. . . .
I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.
I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents - some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.
He seems to have agreed with Republican policy wonks and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that he has to offer a positive alternative to the president. Not only does that sway voters, but if he wins it gives him claim to a mandate for free-market, reform-oriented agenda.
And finally he sought to redefine the “fairness”debate. Whoever came up with this one deserves kudos. Replacing class envy with an anti-cronyism, anti-favoritism and anti-debt message, he said: “This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.” That bit of deftness gave him a lot more than “don’t engage in class warfare” with which to combat, well, Obama’s class warfare.
The delivery was forceful, and Romney’s mood is obviously ebullient. In moments like this one can envision Romney defeating Obama, who will struggle like a fish on a hook to escape his own record. If Romney is as solid as he was Tuesday night, he won’t let the big fish get away.