Romney lacks the wow factor but keeps the trains on the tracks
Mitt Romney's speech was not earth-shattering, but it might just be enough
As my colleague and I noted yesterday, Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention was somewhat muted.
We contested that Ryan was toning it down so that Romney’s speech, delivered last night in Tampa, would seem as impactful and galvanising as we know Ryan can be. We were right.
Romney’s speech from last night, while possibly one of the best the man has ever given, fell short of what one might expect of a presidential candidate looking to dethrone an increasingly unpopular incumbent in trying times.
The words were there, the message was clear, but the delivery was at the best of times monotonous, at worst, condescending.
We’re no fans of Barack Obama, as these pages will attest, but one cannot deny that Mitt Romney still lacks anything close to a ‘wow factor’.
Does this matter? A little, yes. Not as much as one would imagine, which is perhaps why the Republican Party can get away with nominating someone like Romney, coupled alongside the fact that he was one of the best of a bad bunch. Though I admit to thinking there was a better option.
In desperate times for America, Romney’s pallid presentation in both his speeches and generally as a candidate, might be excused for humility. If you were being generous, you might even call his personality ‘consistent’.
But Romney’s personal attributes clash with his pragmatic politics. Though it can hardly be described as ‘rising to the occasion’, he is, to be polite, known as a man who will do what it takes to get the job done – even if it means abandoning previous positions and conservative principles.
Romney’s speech last night has been described as a ‘speech for women’ – a theme that this convention has sought to emphasise. From Ann Romney to Condoleeza Rice, and with Paul Ryan’s statements on his mother’s tenacity, the GOP are clearly reaching out to a group which they have historically lost out on – single, female voters.
It will work in part. The charm offensive will likely assist GOP poll numbers for a while, at least until the Democrats and ideologically opposed charities and lobby groups get in their rebuttals. Even the comedians are producing graphic repudiations of Republican positions with regard to women – and that was straight out of the blocks.
Bizarrely, Clint Eastwood made an appearance yesterday, too. ‘Interviewing’ Barak Obama on stage at the RNC, Eastwood sought to nullify the Hollywood attacks on the Republicans by lending his name and dry sense of humour to the cause of Romney-Ryan. It was, to say the least – incredibly odd.
But Romney did manage, despite his bland travails, to convey a message. “America deserves more.”
No right-headed individual could successfully argue against the fact that after four years of Barack Obama, America needs a change of direction. This is the problem Democratic strategists have been struggling with.
Instead of vocal and justified cries of, “Four more years!” camp Obama is rather meekly requesting of the American people, like an embarrassed Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more.”
If on Wednesday night, Paul Ryan warmed the crowds with his statements (only by a degree or so, mind you), then last night, Romney kept the thermostat hovering around room temperature.
For now, that will be enough. But next week, when the tables are turned on the Republican Party, you can expect the Democrats to continue on with some nasty attacks on Romney and Ryan, while pleading with the American people for another term.
In those moments, we’ll see how resilient the rhetoric of Romney’s speech was.
Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam
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