Why so glum, chum? Haven’t you heard? Mitt Romney’s arrived, and he’s serious this time.
But of course, you didn’t hear — the networks didn’t cover the victory speech Tuesday after Mr. Romney finally sealed up the Republican presidential nomination, and the New York Times, America’s paper of record, had only a front-page photo referring readers to a brief back-of-the-book story.
Throughout the ponderous primary season, one theme was constant, droned about nonstop by the mainstream media: “Republicans aren’t excited about their candidates.” It wasn’t true, of course — campaign seasons are about weighing options, checking alternatives, and then picking the best — but the Democratic talking point buzzed across the wires for months.
Still, quietly, in the campaign war room of Team Obama, a fear was welling up, a fear of Mr. Romney. They went after him at every turn and set about a strategy to paint him as yet another uncaring Republican, out of touch, disgustingly rich, a man simply incapable of feeling your pain.
Which is why Tuesday’s speech by the presumptive Republican nominee was ignored by the media that so ♥s President Obama. In just 14 minutes and 48 seconds, Mr. Romney introduced himself to America — on his terms, not Chicagoland’s — and laid out, in crisp, passionate prose why he is running for president.
“Americans have always been eternal optimists. But over the last 3½ years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership. Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired, and many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less.
“For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job; for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren; for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps; for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month — to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.”
For those worried whether Mr. Romney can twist the knife, he can: “The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best America can do. Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years and the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together.”
With humor and humility, he told America “a little bit about myself.”
“You might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true. But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people. You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons.”
Hmm, not exactly the corporate raider portrayed by Team Obama.
Then, with a nod to President Reagan’s “Are You Better Off?” speech, Mr. Romney laid out his campaign in the simplest of terms: “What do we have to show for 3½ years of President Obama? Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?”
And lest any doubter (talking to you, Rush) believe that the man named Willard was some rube who just fell off the turnip truck, Mr. Romney told Americans what they can expect from this failed president — and what he’s going to do about it: “Because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now. It’s still about the economy … and we’re not stupid.”
Like Mr. Reagan, the 2012 nominee looked to the shining city on the hill that is — and always has been — America.
“I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents — some successful even beyond their wildest dreams — and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.”
To those who doubted Mr. Romney, all is forgiven. So, rejoice Republicans. He really does know what this crucial campaign is about, and he knows how Mr. Obama will try to talk about anything but his record. “But not here, and not now” indeed. Game on.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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