An Evening With Mitt Romney

I didn’t exactly spend the evening with Romney, of course. I spent it driving to the Lafayette Club on Lake Minnetonka for Romney’s only Minnesota appearance of the campaign; waiting in line for a photograph for a considerable time because the candidate ran an hour late; listening to Norm Coleman warm up the crowd, following Congressmen John Kline and Erik Paulsen in that role; and finally hearing Romney speak for 20 minutes or so.

It was great fun. The event was a big success, raising a considerable amount for Romney’s campaign. And how was Romney? Sensational. But let’s go back to the beginning.

Rounding the corner to pull into the Lafayette Club’s parking lot, security was tight. Across the road, a pathetic, ragtag group of left-wing protesters were chanting, as usual, “We are the 99 percent.” There were conservative counter-protesters too; I couldn’t tell which group was more numerous. The largest sign said “Romney Creates Jobs.” I wanted to park my car, get out and confront the leftists, but unfortunately the security arrangements didn’t permit that. Otherwise, I would have approached some of them and taped interviews. The question I always want to ask is, “If you are the 99 percent, why are there only 11 of you?”

Once inside, the size of the crowd was impressive. Staff diverted me to the photograph line, where I spent quite a while, saw a lot of old friends, and made a few new ones. Once Romney arrived the line moved fast, and I only had time to say, “Governor, you and I overlapped at Harvard, but you were more successful in later life.” Which provoked a cordial laugh from the candidate.

When I proceeded to the main hall, Norm Coleman was speaking; he and the others performed heroic service because of the delay. This photo gives you an idea of the size of the crowd:

Before long the photo line was done and Romney appeared to thunderous applause. Which is, of course, the point of this post: how did Mitt do? The answer is, he was great. He spoke for 20 minutes or so, no notes, no teleprompter, totally comfortable with his material. He tossed in facts and figures here and there, but his themes were generally broader: the power of the individual, the Constitution, entrepreneurship and rewarding success, the importance of American power, and so on. His themes were deeply conservative, yet unifying. At no time did he pit one group of Americans against another. He said, “I don’t want to raise anyone’s taxes!” Even though there was probably not a single Democrat in the audience, he said that there are good Democrats and independents, and he wants to work with them in Washington. He did, really, a beautiful job of weaving together the various strands of conservative thought.

What was most striking was how impassioned Romney was. He was nearing the end of a very long day, but he was not just energetic but passionate. America has obviously gone off the rails under the direction of an incompetent administration, and he wants to restore America’s greatness for the benefit of future generations. The strength of his emotional commitment to this cause was palpable.

As I listened to Romney, I asked myself: what better spokesman for conservative ideas have we had in recent years? I couldn’t think of any. You can go back to Reagan, of course. Reagan’s style was more cerebral, less passionate. He was a great articulator of conservatism, but no better, in my opinion, than Romney. Since Reagan? I can’t think of anyone.

While Romney spoke, I was flanked by two of Minnesota’s most dedicated conservative activists and donors. I asked each in turn, what better spokesman for conservative principles has our movement had in recent years? Like me, they couldn’t come up with any. Romney is as effective on the stump as any conservative I can remember. Of course, most voters will never see him this way. I think the Romney campaign needs to film him before audiences like tonight’s, and edit 30 or 60 second ads of him speaking to a friendly crowd the way he did tonight. Or, as one of my friends suggested, they could emulate Reagan and buy 30 minutes of network time for a more comprehensive speech. One way or another, Romney needs voters to see him unleashed and unedited.

I think Mitt Romney is going to be our next president. I heard tonight that the latest private polling has Obama leading Romney in Minnesota by only one point. This is down from five points a month or two ago. If Romney comes close to winning Minnesota, the election won’t be close. But let’s not take any chances. I dug down a bit to support Romney’s campaign tonight; if you haven’t yet done so, you should. This is the pivotal election of our lives. There is, as Adam Smith wrote, a lot of ruin in a country. But I am not certain that the United States could come back from another four years of the incompetent and foolishly left-wing Barack Obama administration. So if you haven’t already contributed to the Romney campaign, please do so. If, God forbid, Barack Obama is re-elected, it would be hard to look in the mirror and realize that we didn’t do all we could to put America back on the path to prosperity and freedom.

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