Noam Neusner, a partner at 30 Point Strategies, is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush , as well as for former Gov. Mitt Romney in his 2008 presidential campaign. He's also a former chief economics correspondent for U.S. News & World Report.
Convention speeches are a big deal for presidential challengers. Most people—including political pros—have not stopped to watch a Mitt Romney speech, start to finish, since the primaries, if at all. Everyone knows that the 10-20 percent of the electorate that still hasn't made up its mind will probably tune in, or sort of tune in, to check this guy out.
So, what should the governor say?
First, he should say hello. The country doesn't really know this guy. The Obama campaign has done impressive work defining Romney as a cold-hearted, profit-first, cancer-causing, rich flip-flopper. It's not too hard to dispel that, just by coming up to the podium and saying a few things to remind people that you're a living, breathing good guy. This is where humor is critical. He needs to make the Obama campaign look like fools: "Hey, I admit it. I've done well. I've got it good. And you know, when you're successful and you've done well, you expect people to try to tear you down. Especially when you run for office. But here's one thing I didn't expect. I didn't expect the other guys to make fun of my singing. I admit it. I'm not Pavoratti. Barack Obama, he's got a lovely voice. He can really sing. I can't. So if you want someone who can sing, vote for him. I'm not that guy."
Second, he should remind people what "four more years" means. President Obama has talked a lot about how the election represents a choice, and that's true. And Romney can pounce on this. "Do you want four more years of his choices? He has been at the job for nearly four years, so we know a little bit about Barack Obama we didn't know before. We know that when it comes to spending tax dollars, he always wants to spend more. Except on our troops. We know he likes slogans: Built to Last. Win the Future. Forward. We know that when it comes to cutting spending, he always wants to cut less, if at all. We know he likes to throw parties and meet celebrities and play golf. We know that when it comes to compromising and building consensus, he can't do it—and won't do it. We know he likes appointing commissions and policy czars and boards and special panels. But we also know he doesn't listen to their recommendations. We know that when America's troops are threatened overseas, he likes pulling them out, not taking on the enemies. We know he likes to, as his own people put it, 'lead from behind.' And that's about right. Because with four more years of Barack Obama, America will get used to being left behind."
Third, he should talk about the nation's problems and what has happened with those problems in the last four years. John Wooden famously said we should never confuse activity with accomplishment—and that has never been more true than in the Obama administration. This is a White House that has been frenetic in activity. It won major reforms and overhauls of financial regulatory laws, student loan markets, health insurance markets and the automobile industry, just to name a few. He instituted a major change in the nation's immigration laws over the objections of Congress. He oversaw a vast expansion of environmental rules and oversight powers. He removed American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He took up the Iran nuclear program issue as his primary foreign policy goal. And then Romney should point out, bluntly and without adornment, that when it comes to accomplishment, President Obama has precious little to show. He could hammer this point home with something like: "In the Obama administration, they said a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. But then they wasted four years and four trillion dollars, and we still have the same crisis. America—you deserved better than this. You deserved a White House that tried to solve a crisis, not use it to jam an agenda the nation didn't want and didn't need. You deserved leadership. And with me, you'll get it."