Romney Vows to Deliver Country From Economic Travails

 New York Times

August 30, 2012

Romney Vows to Deliver Country From Economic Travails


TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday by making a direct appeal to Americans who were captivated by President Obama’s hopeful promises of change, pledging that he could deliver what the president did not and move the country from its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The speech by Mr. Romney, delivered on the closing night of the Republican convention, signaled an attempt to redefine the race around his business background, which Democrats have spent the summer attacking. He urged voters not to feel guilty about giving up on Mr. Obama, even if they were proud to support him as the nation’s first black president.

“You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president,” Mr. Romney said, “when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”

But even as Mr. Romney delivered a pointed critique of Mr. Obama’s domestic and foreign policy, saying that he had “thrown Israel under the bus,” he also used the marquee speech of his campaign to make a case for himself. He invited people from each chapter of his life to paint a humanizing portrait to help voters see him with a trusting eye.

“This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right,” Mr. Romney said. “But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office.”

With 67 days remaining before Election Day, the presidential race has been essentially locked in place, with each side hoping to win over a small slice of the electorate that is still undecided. The Democratic Party will offer its rebuttal at its own convention next week in North Carolina, with voters being left to judge whether either party advanced its case.

The speech loomed as Mr. Romney’s most important since he began openly exploring his presidential aspirations nearly a decade ago. It was an opportunity to present himself to Americans who are just now beginning to tune in to this campaign and to make the case against Mr. Obama, particularly to the people who voted for him.

“If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?” Mr. Romney said.

The Republican convention, which had been delayed earlier in the week by Tropical Storm Isaac, ended in a rousing and respectful acclamation for Mr. Romney. While he has often been viewed with suspicion by conservative activists, he is now widely seen in a new light as a man who stands a strong chance of winning back the White House.

In a campaign where foreign policy has often been a side note, Mr. Romney showed that he does not intend to shy away from aggressively challenging Mr. Obama’s foreign policy. He said the president had “abandoned our friends in Poland,” been duped by Iran and been too weak toward Russia.

“Every American was relieved the day President Obama gave the order and SEAL Team 6 took out Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Romney said. “But on another front, every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat.”

But the evening was not entirely serious, with a bizarre element of stagecraft playing out as the actor Clint Eastwood strode into the convention hall to deliver a meandering monologue that criticized the president. He used an empty bar stool sitting on stage as a prop to hold an imaginary conversation with Mr. Obama, which occupied the first 15 minutes of coverage on the broadcast television networks.

He engaged in a series of exchanges, saying at one point, “What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney?” He replied, “I can’t tell him that. He can’t do that to himself,” Mr. Eastwood said. Then he said, “You’re getting as bad as Biden.”

The audience inside the hall responded with curiosity to the bit of old Hollywood. From her seat on the convention floor, Ann Romney watched with a nervous look on her face.

The dynamics shaping the general election campaign, particularly the challenges facing Mr. Romney, came to life during the convention and in his 39-minute acceptance speech. Improving his standing among female voters is critical to his chances for victory, aides said, and Mr. Romney amplified a steady theme of messages aimed at women.

“When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way,” Mr. Romney said, parceling out another piece of his biography. “I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?’ ”

A party that has struggled to increase its appeal to female, Hispanic and black voters featured a diverse lineup of speakers throughout the week, concluding with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who introduced Mr. Romney on Thursday evening. A favorite of Tea Party activists, Mr. Rubio embraced Mr. Romney as “a special man to lead us in a special time.”

Mr. Romney swept into the convention hall to an enthusiastic welcome, ending his long journey across two presidential election cycles to reach this moment. The applause grew louder as he took the stage and formally accepted the nomination at 10:36 p.m.

“I accept your nomination for president of the United States,” Mr. Romney said. “I do so with humility, deeply moved by the trust you place in me. It’s a great honor and it’s an even greater responsibility.”

Throughout the evening, Mr. Romney’s life story unspooled before the Republican delegates inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Testimonials were intended to reshape perceptions about Mr. Romney that have hardened after a negative television advertising campaign from the president and his Democratic allies. Business owners, longtime friends, Olympic athletes and fellow Mormons offered personal anecdotes to help humanize Mr. Romney.

The stories were intended to help build a fuller picture of Mr. Romney, who has been reluctant to talk about some details of his private life. During his speech, he also talked about his Mormon faith, a subject he rarely raises during the campaign, saying, “My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to.”

He beamed as he recalled his childhood in Michigan, where his father was governor and a Republican presidential candidate in 1968. He struck out on his own, saying: “If I stayed around Michigan in the same business, I never would know if I got a break because of my dad.”

The speech was warmly received among Republicans who were interviewed as balloons and confetti slowly fell from the rafters and Mr. Romney was joined on stage by his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, and their families.

Mike Osborne, 63, a delegate from California, said: “His opponents have tried to define him as a rich kid from Michigan who lived off his parents. I know that’s not true, but now everybody else will too. I felt an energy in the room I have not felt before.”

Michael D. Shear, Adam Nagourney and Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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