Who Are You, and What Did You Do With the Old Mitt?
Every time he’s given a nice speech after a primary victory, I would usually joke on Twitter, “ah, looks like those new personality software upgrades are working out, he sounds much more natural now,” or something like that. (It’s a perennial; as Erick Erickson said last night, “Romney v.6.5 is pretty awesome.”)
But the Mitt Romney we saw tonight . . . it’s as if he had been saving up every bit of his inner emotional life, his soft, sentimental side, and let it all out. This was a speech that requires us to reexamine what we think we know about Romney. He might be a guy who is just spectacularly focused, and remarkably capable and adaptable. And in each objective in Romney’s life — at Bain, in Massachusetts, in his past campaigns — he has done, and adapted, to whatever the situation requires. And so when people say he’s stiff, or boring . . . remember that he’s never really needed to be “humanized” before now. Or people like you and I have urged him to do it, but he hasn’t really needed to do it . . . until this moment. Right around now, the casual voters start paying attention.
And then he told the story of his father leaving a rose for his mother on her bedside table every day until he died.
And then he mentioned about how he and Ann wish they could have one more day of their sons being young, and rambunctious, and all wrestling with each other. (I wonder if he was aiming for the been-away-for-his-sons-for-nearly-a-week-convention-correspondent demographic.)
And then he gently ribbed his rival by contrasting Obama’s grandiose pledge to lower the oceans and heal the earth . . . against a simple promise to help you and your families.
Ross Douthat: “It was a highly effective reintroduction to Romney the man, w/absolutely nothing in it to make Americans nervous about voting for him.”
Tabitha Hale: “Suddenly this doesn’t feel like 2008 anymore.”
The Rest of the Thursday Speakers
We’ve heard quite a bit about the need to “humanize” Romney. I suppose this comes from the sense of not knowing what a politician is like when they’re not on camera, when they’re not on stage, when the applauding crowds have all gone home, and when it’s just him and those who have known him since before he was famous.Every once in a while, you hear stories of Mitt Romney that suggest he’s just the nicest, kindest, most warm-hearted guy in the world — almost too good to be true. And yet, on the campaign trail, that comes through all so rarely. I’ve speculated that young Mitt saw his father’s political career get immolated by one stray comment and the ruthless knives of the Nixon operation, and came away with a desire to never show too much to the eyes of the public. Even when he’s speaking off the cuff he seems scripted.
America, meet Ted and Pat Oparowski:
Jeff Greenfield: “Is there any doubt those affecting, moving stories of Romney’s kindnesses will be seen via TV ads? (Remember “Ashley’s Story” from 2004?)”
Then we got our mystery guest . . . Clint Eastwood.
It . . . was odd. Not consistently terrible as some argued. I have no doubt some folks loved it. It may very well have actually moved some votes. But boy, did it get weird at times.
First, Eastwood looks old. But even more than that, he used no notes or script, and his remarks appeared to be stream of consciousness. Dirty Harry’s first two shots were through each of the teleprompters. He pretended to be having a conversation with Obama, except I don’t know if he ever clearly set up the premise, so it seemed like he was hearing voices. But then every time he came up to the edge of the cliff, and you thought the segment would be an absolute train-wreck . . . he pulled back with some great line: “I thought maybe it was just because somebody had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City.” “Politicians are employees of ours.” “Of course we all now Biden is the intellect of the Democratic party.”
And if the aim of this convention is to persuade Obama voters of 2008 that it’s okay to vote for Romney in 2012, then maybe nothing said last night will be more powerful than Eastwood’s gravelly, “When somebody does not do the job, you’ve got to let them go.”
As for Rubio . . .
A few folks had wondered about the conventional wisdom that Rubio was on the short list. The reasons against are clear: He’s young; he looks even younger; he’s been in the Senate less than two years and who knows if he would be ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency starting in January. But here’s why Rubio enjoyed future-presidential-candidate buzz from day one: He was one of the few 2010 candidates who ran on a national theme, why America is unique, why immigrants risk their lives to come here instead of the other way around, and why we endanger our future by adopting the policies of social-democrat, welfare-state governments in other countries instead of upgrading and updating the free-market approach that built so much prosperity for so many decades. He’s got the vision and he talks about big things, and it resonates with a lot of people both inside and outside the Republican party.