Updated 11:34: Romney closes with a bipartisan paean to one United States of America reminiscent of Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic keynote address. He wound the crowd up to a pretty good pitch for the peroration, but it has returned to a quasi-tranquilized state. Balloons are falling and there are smatterings of cheers and clapping here or there but it’s mostly a flat crowd. One person in the press section just quipped, “I feel like I’m at a retirement party.”
Romney gave a solid speech. It was decently delivered, had a couple of lines of poetry and some good pops on the incumbent. And it was solidly delivered. But there was little new and especially recycled familiar themes of broad, vacuous patriotism, and not-Obama-ism. And especially in regards to the introductory material, I wonder about the wisdom of having bet so heavily on this one moment. The Democrats have been building a narrative and the Romney campaign seems to have the attitude that his finally having laid out his side once should carry equal weight with the voters.
And it might. But it smacks of an assumption that has permeated much of his campaign and which could well be a net negative: The belief that people should take Romney at his word—they don’t need to see his tax returns or the details of his policies; he has spoken and that should be good enough. Again, maybe it is, but I don’t feel like he’s earned that trust.
Updated 11:12: Now Romney trots out the hoary “apology tour” myth. PolitiFact rated this “pants on fire.”
Updated 11:09: Interesting that the second plank of his plan is education-focused when the Romney-Ryan budget plan would necessitate devastating cuts in education. Also note that he talks about putting “America on track to a balanced budget.” The Ryan budget doesn’t balance the budget for decades, in large part because he balloons the deficit even more with massive tax cuts. But why not balance the budget immediately if it’s a great moral imperative? Because even Romney has admitted that such savage cuts in public investment will hurt the economy.
Updated 11:03: I’ll lay money that Obama spends a good chunk of his speech a week from now explaining why we’re better off today than four years ago. Here are few things he might mention: When he took office, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month; Obamacare filled the “donut hole” in Medicare; and as Joe Biden likes to say, Osama bin Laden is dead while General Motors is alive.
Updated 11:01: Romney criticizes Obama for lacking the basic necessity of being president—work in the private sector. Which raises the question of Paul Ryan’s presidential credentials.
Then he transitions into the story of Bain Capital, setting it up as a start-up business. What he doesn’t mention is that he had a deal with Bain & Company that if Bain Capital flopped he’d go back to his old job there in his old position with full seniority, pay, etc. Not exactly a picture of American risk-taking capitalism.
He then goes on to list Bain successes—I’ve had more than one GOP strategist tell me if they were running his campaign, he’d do an appearance at a Staples or similar company in every city he goes into.
Updated 10:56: Romney uses the biographical portion to make a pitch to women (his wife’s tough work at home raising the kids) and to talk about his religion. He does a good job of placing himself in the American story—critical to a good acceptance speech. Then a smooth transition back into Obama indictment.
Updated 10:48: On to the self-introduction. He evokes John F. Kennedy before Ronald Reagan gets a shout-out.
Updated at 10:46: Romney opens with indictment of the Obama years—promises the president made that Romney says weren’t kept. The crowd musters a U-S-A chant which was quickly followed by a counterprotest which was shouted down…while Romney tries to give his speech over it. Honestly I don’t think much of Romney or his campaign but let him make his case.
Updated at 10:38: Rubio spoke typically well but the classic American dream he spoke of—that someone from humble beginnings can achieve unlikely, great things—seems to better fit the personal story of a mixed race, oddly named child of a single, working mother than the son of an auto magnate/presidential candidate.
Updated at 10:31: Closing the book on Eastwood, the Twitters are not being kind to the great actor/director. David Waldman writes: “Yeah, I doubt Obama was watching. Until someone ran into the room and said OMG YOU GOTTA SEE THIS CLINT EASTWOOD” stuff. Noam Scheiber: “Great thing about the Eastwood routine: For millions of Americans, that will be their introduction to the GOP this yr. Led the network hour.” Bob Cusack: “The media is now praying that Romney takes Clint Eastwood on the road with him.” And even film critic Roger Ebert: “Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn't need to do this to himself.” Agreed—hopefully this will be a little-remembered chapter in an otherwise illustrious career.
Updated at 10:22: Marco Rubio, on now, is possibly the best young speaker in the GOP today. As mentioned below it’s an interesting choice, in terms of pumping up the crowd with a good speaker and following up with a diffident one. We’ll see. The crowd this week and tonight has seemed to be more excited about being excited than actually being it.
Updated at 10:18: Clint Eastwood’s appearance brought one of the loudest cheers from what has been a fairly sedate crowd over the last few days. It’s an interesting choice to have Eastwood speak. On the one hand he revs up the crowd of the main event, but given Romney’s charisma deficit, if Clint goes over too well it could overshadow the main event. Or as Eastwood opened: “Save a little for Mitt.”
Interestingly, Eastwood is speaking off the cuff—the Teleprompter reads: “Whip Team Hand Out Flags/CE/Announcer V/O.” His stand-up routine is getting a bit weird and uncomfortable—especially the bit about how attorneys shouldn’t be president, given that Romney has a law degree from Harvard (not to mention the truly odd comment about not being able to tell Romney to do that to himself.)
I wonder how this is playing on TV. It's like the slightly dotty uncle got hold of the microphone at a wedding. The family finds his shtick charming but everyone else just thinks it's a bit uncomfortable and weird.
Updated at 10:05: Team Romney has made a heck of a bet on the attention span of the American people. Romney’s campaign has spent virtually the entire campaign focusing on attacks against Barack Obama. The overwhelming majority of the pro-Romney ads that have run thus far could actually be more accurately be termed anti-Obama. They have been so busy going after Obama that Romney senior adviser Ron Kaufman this week admitted that his candidate is “kind of a blank slate” for voters. And as I mentioned earlier this neglect of the Romney story has, according to polls, taken a toll, with voters taking a diminishing view of him personality and of his business experience. The bet is that most voters haven’t paid attention up to this point. For them, the bet goes, Romney is a blank Etch A Sketch upon which the stream of happy Bain and Olympic stories and a well-crafted biographical video can fill in details. Democrats are banking on the narrative they’ve spent months and millions of dollars building.
TAMPA—Throughout months and months of a primary and general campaign, Mitt Romney’s opponents tried to define Bain Capital and his business out from under him (not to mention his clumsy foreign trip neutralizing what his campaign hoped would be an Olympic-style introduction to the public). And judging by Romney’s deteriorating favorability ratings, they’ve met with at least some measure of success. But the script for this evening—with a procession of businessmen and—women with happy Bain stories to tell, along with an Olympic team reunion—seems like it was dusted off from months ago, before Romney’s opponents started to try to rewrite his biography.