The Republican base is mad as hell with Barack Obama; Mitt Romney is just disappointed. ‘You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.” he said in his acceptance speech last night. “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept.” It was as if he wished to sound almost like a disillusioned Obama voter.
Romney is not an electrifying speaker. Even his wife worked the podium better. When a speech gets into “..and fifthly…” it sounds more like a CEO application than a heartfelt manifesto. Romney is gambling that America has had enough of a charisma and grandiose promises, and just wants jobs. Perhaps his most effective line was saying:-
“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
Obama has failed because “he had almost no experience of working in a business,” said Romney. By contrast, when he was aged 37, he set up a company: Bain Capital. He has come under huge attack from the Democrats for Bain downsizing and other wicked capitalist endeavour. Romney presented the other side by listing Bain’s successes, the companies it grew, the jobs it created. And, ran the subtext, I’ll do this to America.
The meat of his accusation against America was the same question that Reagan asked in 1980: are you better off than you were four years ago?
‘‘Every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: ‘you are better off today than you were four years ago.’ Except Jimmy Carter, and except this president. This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office.”
There was a fair bit about women, a reminder that the Republicans are in serious trouble with them. Romney spoke about his mother running for the Senate, and hailed the women who spoke at the convention.
“As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.
The most passionate part of his speech was when he praised capitalism.
We weren’t always successful at Bain. But no one ever is in the real world of business. That’s what this President doesn’t seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It is about dreams. Usually, it doesn’t work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple. He came back and changed the world. It’s the genius of the American free enterprise system – to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that is dedicated to creating tomorrow’s prosperity rather than trying to redistribute today’s.
The audience were getting to their feet as he was finishing this passage, and it reminded me a bit about David Cameron’s 2008 speech praising the “free enterprise system” at a time when no one else dared to. But the audience liked the words, not the delivery. The words, on the page, read very well and I have no doubt that Romney fervently believes them. But when Romney read them from the autocue it was like he was rushing a school audition for a role in Richard III.
Overall, Romney’s speech was pretty workmanlike – as it was always going to be. It’s hard to reinvent yourself aged 65. If I were a Republican supporter, it would make me a little nervous given that he’s about to take on one of the greatest orators in American political history. Romney’s pitch, of course, is that he’s not a speaker, he’s a do-er. He now has two months to see if that’s enough.
UPDATE Mike Smithson from politicalbetting.com Tweets that odds on a Romney victory lengthened after his speech. If punters were hoping that Romney was going to find his inner-Reagan, they have been disappointed.