Back when I was in college my girlfriend (now my wife), and I broke up for a brief time, and a guy in my fraternity started calling her asking her out. That’s what Mitt Romney was doing last night at the GOP Convention, and he made an incredibly strong case for a break up.
“He doesn’t really love you, baby… I love you.”
Striking the traditional populist tone, Romney laid out the case for why the country should break up with Obama and fall in love with him. Any national convention will involve over-the-top nationalism – this is to be expected. Romney continued to imply that Barack Obama isn’t a true American. Romney’s birth certificate joke last week primed the pump for an entire convention of calling into question his love and loyalty for his country.
“Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, “I’m an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!”
This sort of tack only really works if people think it might be true. When one in six voters believe that Obama is a Muslim, this rhetoric effectively taps into that “real America” theme Palin so effectively established four years ago. Romney needs those voters.
“You should hear what that other guy says about you when you’re not around!”
Romney, like Paul Ryan, has a little bit of trouble dealing in facts. In a line borrowed from his stump speech Romney said, “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.” Politifact gives this their worst rating, “pants on fire,” as an over the top break with reality. Nevertheless it is an effective way to try and draw a contrast. Telling the country, weary from four tough economic years, that your leader doesn’t have pure American motives will work with the GOP base and it may work in swing states where the economy is performing well.
“Listen, I can give you a lot of things that other guy can’t give you. You’re gonna get a shiny new car and a diamond ring out of this, baby.”
Here’s where Romney makes his best case. Nobody is over the top happy with the performance of Barack Obama. Romney took advantage of the fact that he can talk about a fantastic future, but he doesn’t have to deal in facts when he does. Obama has a record, and it’s not the best. Romney sets up the future in such general and populist terms, that to attempt to refute them Obama will risk looking like his doesn’t think the future is bright. That’s a tough needle to thread.
“You’re boyfriend’s a wimp. If anyone ever messed with you, I’d go to town on him. I’ll take care of you, baby.”
The war hawkish section was a bit mystifying, especially when the U.S.is actually fighting a war right now which Romney never addressed and gave no indication of what he might do. What he promised was a return to the days of Truman and Reagan.
“President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’sCuba. He abandoned our friends inPolandby walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to giveRussia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone. We will honorAmerica’s democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.”
I thought this speech went as well as it could go for Romney. He struck just the right tone and for people who were looking for a reason to ditch Obama and go out with him, I think they found some compelling reasons. His likeability – seen as a real weakness – had to have improved over the course of the convention. All eyes are on the swing states and in the coming days we’ll know if Romney’s case for a break up worked in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. For all of the ruckus, the election comes down to those five states.