A fired-up Mitt Romney has now given his victory speech. He called today’s win in Michigan (which looks like it’s going to be decisive) a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism. The reference is to John McCain’s view that some Michigan jobs aren’t coming back. By contrast, Romney vowed again to “fight for every job.”
In a way, his speech mirrored McCain’s statements about Iraq. There, it was McCain who challenged conventional wisdom and demanded a new strategy that could produce victory. This is what Romney is doing on the economy. One difference, of course, is that McCain’s strategy has already delivered in Iraq.
Romney’s speech pushed the Washington outsider theme to the limit, inciting the crowd to chant with him a list of promises on which Washington hasn’t delivered. But whether branding McCain as a Washington insider — the clear import of Romney’s remarks — will work well beyond the confines of a state with a terrible economy in which Romney is something of a favorite son remains to be seen. McCain’s “straight talk” played into Romney’s hands in Michigan in ways that are not likely to be repeated elsewhere.
For months, there have been rumors of a split within the Romney camp: should he campaign as the savvy businessman/technocrat who can fix the mess in Washington or as a social conservative and the biggest enemy of illegal immigration. Tonight can be viewed as vindication of the former view. However, I’ve always thought that, as an outsider in the race running against better known candidates, Romney needs to campaign in both ways, with the emphasis shifting from state to state. As the race moves to the South, it will be interesting to see whether Romney continues to ride the fix-it man horse or tilts back towards the other mount.
In any case, tonight was a very good night for Mitt. His native state has put him back in the thick of things, and he’s clearly loving it.
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