James Anderson writes from Tampa: It was Mitt Romney’s night at the Republican Convention. He delivered his best scripted speech ever. He was trying to appeal to two groups: the right, by sketching out what he would do during his first hundred days in the White House, and the centre, by talking about himself, his religious and political beliefs and his hopes and aspirations for the future.
Romney even managed to come up with a bit of humour, although his wooden features and strange glare in his eyes spoiled the effect a bit. He also did a weepy and described what it was like to have five boys re-enacting a world war every evening. There were tears in his eyes and those of the audience when he related that his father had planted a red rose on his mother’s bedside table every morning. When it was not there, she went looking for him. He was dead.
The tenor of the speech was not about lambasting President Obama outright. It was more about the sadness and disappointment about the performance of the Obama Administration. Romney proved that he could also land the telling punch. He said that the President had promised to begin lowering the rise of oceans and healing the planet. ‘My promise is to help you and your family,’ he said to a roar from the party faithful.
Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, did well too. He promised to cap federal spending at 20 per cent of GDP and attempt to balance the budget by 2020. How was this to be done? By cutting back on subsidies to agriculture, education and so on. He would rethink health care for the elderly and cut it to the poor. The wave of entitlements which has engulfed the budget would be put into reverse. On the face of it, this was political suicide. He put stark choices to voters. Take the medicine I prescribe and America will be great again. He nodded to the Tea Party by aiming to reduce federal spending and to the average family by promising the good times would return. Everyone is looking forward to his debate with Joe Biden. On paper it is not a fair contest but he has the chance to put down a marker as a future Republican candidate for the presidency.
But the most stunning speech was delivered by Condoleezza Rice, George Bush’s Secretary of State. Delegates stopped munching on their popcorn and slurping their Cola and listened to every word. She mesmerised them. You could have heard a pin drop. She talked about something which has been ignored at the Convention: education. She claimed it was not true that everyone in America had the same chances in life: to live the American Dream. Your zip code determined your access to education, she said, telling President Obama that he could not lead from behind.
Clint Eastwood was the surprise guest of the evening and he spoke without notes. Interesting to see what celeb will be the surprise guest at the Democratic Convention.
Another rising star was Marco Rubio, the native Spanish speaker and Senator from Florida. He said that the problem was not that the President was a bad person. The problem was, he said, that he was a bad President. Instead of leading America forward during the last four years, he was leading the country backwards.
The Obama family did not watch any of the Convention. Perhaps this was wise as it would have been depressing for them. So what can the President do, given that his economic record is so dismal? He can hammer home the message that the Romney-Ryan duo will make life harder for many Americans. This is true in the short term. Will voters decide the short term is more important than the long term?
On to the Democratic Convention next week.