Romney Impresses

Mitt Romney swept five Republican primaries today–no surprise there. He gave a terrific speech tonight in the wake of those victories. I caught it on Fox News. Romney was introduced by his wife Ann, which prompts this observation: First Ladies are like vice-presidential nominees; they do not swing any significant number of votes. What they can do is contribute, in a subtle way, to the overall image of the ticket. Sort of like the vermouth in a martini. Recognizing that very limited role, Ann Romney is a phenomenon. She is a tremendously skilled performer in her own right. If we think back to the First Ladies and would-be First Ladies of recent years, we find no parallel: they range from the only-seen-if-necessary, like Teresa Heinz Kerry, to the positive and presentable but reluctant, like Laura Bush. Ann Romney ranks above them all, in my opinion. In her own right, she coulda been a contender.

Sorry if I got carried away. Here are some excerpts from Romney’s speech, as emailed to supporters tonight. Comments to follow:

After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and not a few long nights, I can say with confidence – and gratitude – that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility. And, together, we will win on November 6th!

We launched this campaign not far from here on a beautiful June day. It has been long and extraordinarily rewarding.

Americans have always been eternal optimists. But over the last three and a half years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership. Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired, and many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less.

For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for every grandparent who can’t afford the gas to visit his or her 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.

Four years ago Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change. But after we came down to earth, after the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

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.

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.

This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; 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.

In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.

This is the America that was won for us by the nation’s Founders, and earned for us by the Greatest Generation. It is the America that has produced the most innovative, most productive, and most powerful economy in the world, with one of the highest standards of living of any major nation.

Romney also talked about his father, who once sold paint out of the trunk of his car and never graduated from college, but became the head of an automobile company and the Governor of Michigan. Romney’s themes strike me as exactly right: Obama has been a failure; America deserves better; the strength of America lies in its private sector; we need to return to the opportunity society that the Founders envisioned and that reigned as recently as a decade ago.

As I watch Mitt Romney, this thought also occurs to me: Romney is sometimes criticized as “inauthentic,” but this is radically incorrect. As a politician, he has had to tack with the winds from time to time, like anyone else. But as a person, Romney is hugely authentic. His persona is no mystery: he is a Dad. We have all known men like Mitt Romney. We may think they are square and out of date; we may roll our eyes if they are occasionally goofy. But when times are tough, in moments of crisis, everyone knows where to turn: we look to leaders of character, competence and decency, like Mitt Romney. I am increasingly confident that in November, Americans will see Mitt Romney as just what we need after four years of Barack Obama’s incompetence.

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