Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for president Thursday night with an impassioned speech that blasted President Obama for failing to deliver jobs and failing to deliver on the hope and change he promised four years ago.
He compared his presidency to Jimmy Carter’s – the last Democrat to be turned out of office after a single term. In an echo of President Ronald Reagan’s famous question asked during that year’s debate, Romney said “this president cannot tell us that you’re better off today than when he took office.”
The 43-minute speech should put to rest criticism that Romney is a wooden campaigner who cannot connect to average voters – or at least the narrow sliver of a divided electorate that remains undecided and will likely decide the outcome of an election that every poll now calls a statistical dead heat. At times stern, smiling, angry and empathetic, the Republican standard bearer promised to create 12 million new jobs during his first term in office, lower the deficit, boost defense spending and lower taxes that he said were crushing the middle class and small business.
He also made a direct appeal to Obama’s youthful supporters, who were the crucial difference in electing the nation’s first African-American president in 2008. Noting the intrinsic appeal of a message that promised hope and change, he asked, “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,” he said.
Convention speeches are rarely the place where candidates spell out many programmatic specifics for achieving their campaign promises and Romney didn’t disappoint. His five-point plan for creating 250,000 new jobs a month for the next four years – about twice the current pace – included making America energy independent through greater exploitation of domestically- produced oil, coal and gas; an increased focus on improving schools; forging new trade agreements that punish unfair traders – a swipe at China; cutting regulations, and putting the federal government on track for a balanced budget.
He also took a swipe at Obama’s support for measures to curb global warming, a clear signal that a Romney administration will put global warming on the backburner. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” he said to loud laughter in the hall. “And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
While he promised to repeal and replace Obama’s health care reform bill, he offered no plan or even words of support for the nearly 50 million Americans who do not have health insurance, two-thirds of whom would get coverage under “Obamacare.”
For the third time in as many nights, the speakers that preceded Romney, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio who introduced him, and Romney himself, dwelled only briefly on his record as a job creator at Bain Capital, which has come under withering assault from the Obama campaign. The speeches contained far more references to making America great again and celebrating success rather than focusing attention on the candidate’s claim to having a unique capacity to create jobs.
“The centerpiece of the president’s entire campaign is attacking success,” Romney said. “Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? In American we celebrate success. We don’t apologize for success.”
Admitting there had been failures his tenure at Bain, which Democratic ads have said led to shuttered plants and lost health insurance, Romney sought to turn those setbacks to his advantage by suggesting that is what happens when you take risks. He then cited Bain’s investments in companies like Staples, Sports Authority and Bright Horizons, an early childhood learning center “that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised.”
In a nod to polls showing the Republican standard bearer lagging behind with women voters, Romney highlighted his record while governor in appointing women to high office. Earlier in the evening, Jane Edmonds, an African-American women who served as his labor secretary, told the convention that when he invited her to join the cabinet, “he struck me then and now as honest, transparent and inclusive.”
Of course, she made no mention of her or her governor’s jobs record in Massachusetts, which the Romney campaign has claimed surpassed either his predecessor or successor, both of whom are Democrats. While that may be true, it was because both served during recessions while Romney’s time encompassed the mid-2000s expansion. Over the course of his four-year term, Massachusetts trailed 46 other states in its rate of job creation, according to FactCheck.org.