TAMPA--Mitt Romney returned to first principles in accepting the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night, arguing that President Barack Obama has failed miserably to create enough jobs and improve the economy, and declaring that it's time to fire him.
His message was blunt and simple.
"What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound," Romney declared. "It doesn't take a special government commission to tell us what America needs. What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs."
The former governor of Massachusetts tried to soften his image and connect with everyday people who tell pollsters that they don't believe that Romney--a mega-millionaire and son of privilege--understands their problems, and they doubt that he would serve as their advocate.
To that end, he talked emotionally about his values and his personal life. He spoke of his commitment to his marriage and his family. He recalled the inspiration he took from his father George, the former governor of Michigan, and his mother Lenore, both of whom gave him "unconditional love." And he gave rare insights into the importance of his Mormon faith in intensifying his relationship with God and deepening his understanding of the need for every individual to help those in need.
Before Romney gave his address to an enthusiastic Republican National Convention, the delegates heard from a series of people who praised Romney's character and willingness to help others. One of the most moving tributes--which kept the delegates spellbound and brought some to tears--came from Pat and Ted Oparowski, who spoke of how Romney became a close friend of their cancer-stricken 14-year-old son David many years ago in Massachusetts. Romney visited David often, helped him write his will, and gave the eulogy at his memorial service.
"We will ever be grateful to Mitt for his love and concern," Mrs. Oparowski said.
But his most important message in terms of broadening his appeal as a would-be president was his critique of Obama's economic stewardship, and Romney's pledge to do better.
"How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?" he asked, speaking directly to the millions of voters watching on television. "Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? 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."
Adopting a tone of sadness rather than anger, he added: "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed," Romney said. "But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help, we will do something."
Romney has all along presented himself as "Mr. Fix It" who has been successful in all his major pursuits, ranging from leading the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 to co-founding Bain Capital, a private equity firm. His Democratic critics concede that he did well in running the Olympics but they say that at Bain he was a predatory capitalist interested in making huge profits rather than creating jobs or helping communities. His critics also say his record as governor of Massachusetts was mediocre at best and he didn't do particularly well in creating jobs or improving the state economy.
But Romney asked Americans to trust him to do better than Obama has.
On Thursday night, he outlined a five-point economic plan that he said would lead to better times. Romney is calling for "North American energy independence by 2020" by allowing the private sector to develop far more oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy; more job training and improvements to education, and allowing more parents to have a choice in where they send their children to school; enacting more trade agreements with foreign countries; cutting the deficit and moving aggressively toward balancing the budget, and encouraging the growth of small businesses by cutting taxes, simplifying and reducing regulations, cutting health-care costs, and repealing the massive overhaul of the health-care system known as "Obamacare." He provided few details about these initiatives.
He made a special point of defending his business success, declaring that Obama does not understand the economy or the American entrepreneurial spirit. Romney said Obama makes a fundamental mistake by attacking the rich and those who have lived lives of achievement.
"In America, we celebrate success," he shouted. "We don't apologize for success."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook or Twitter.