Control for the hotter-than-the-surface-of-the-sun temperatures, the glancing blow of Tropical Storm Issac and the Orwellian level of security theater, and Tampa will go down as a very successful Republican convention.
Mitt Romney did his job, and for a man many have tried to caricature as robotic and stiff, it was a warm, broad and thoroughly Presidential speech. It was a speech I loved hearing in person, especially because when I read the text it seemed like a fairly elaborate contraption. It had so much to do in a limited timeframe that of necessity I thought it couldn't hang together as a cohesive rhetorical whole.
But Romney, as he tends to, knew the importance of the day and delivered a speech that was a powerful opener for the Fall season.
Yes, there was some laundry-list stuff, but we all know that's an inescapable feature of these operations. What struck me about Romney's nomination speech was how well it reflected him.
He was a man shaped by a loving family – the segments of the speech about his mother and father were particularly strong, and illustrated how he in turn worked tirelessly to build a loving family.
The speech drew a subtle, and I think overlooked contrast to Barack Obama: Romney's life and his ambitions are directed outward, not inward.
He could have taken the inward path of a sinecure job in the auto industry and material comfort, but chose to challenge himself to build companies and serve institutions. Yes, he was richly rewarded for his work with Bain, but the story keeps coming back to the outside challenge, not the inner ambition.
He didn't tackle the Olympics for his own ego: he saw a challenge and embraced it so others could benefit. The examples of the Mitt Romney as a man of quiet service to those in need were a stark reminder that Barack Obama explicitly became a community organizer to forward his political career.
Entrepreneurs, large and small, heard that speech and understood: it's not just the money that drives you. It's also the sense of creation, and of building a legacy. It the sense that risk, work and reward are all part of a single whole. It's a smarter, more corrosive (to Obama) way of saying "You built that."
Beyond the humanizing elements of Romney's speech, the inevitable push against Obama was calibrated, relentless and playing the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger card that seems to be the current vogue. Obama's polling on the economy will have more to do with exogenous factors than our messaging, but playing up the growing unease among Obama's 2008 soft voters was well done last night.
In the primary debates, Mitt Romney's relentless preparation and research paid off. Time after time, Romney dispatched the Cains, Gingriches, Perrys and Santorums of the field with a well-honed, well-delivered attack. He rarely failed to land a blow when he took one, and last night on both policy and politics, he went to Obama's failings, but more importantly, Romney (and also Ryan and Rubio before him) took precise aim at Barack Obama's most sensitive spot: his colossal, galactic-scale, overweening ego.
It's a good inside game move, because as much as Obama's too-cool-for-school affect and ostensibly Vulcan demeanor is a part of his press image, this is a man with a kind of snippy me-me-me self-regard that blinds him to the most obvious of excesses. He was fine with offering America an idol to worship, not an ideal to emulate and an American tradition to honor. He was the post-modern, post-partisan, post-ironic President, unnumbered by the constraints of tradition. He is shocked when questioned, contemptuous when challenged.
Both Ryan's “faded poster” and Romney's “promised to stop the rise of the oceans” play smartly against a man who was perfectly comfortable with campaign-as-hagiography at best, and a personality cult at worst. Both lines were designed to ping Obama, and his fanboys in the press...and they worked perfectly in both regards.
Romney let the audience see him as a man in full, contrasted service to political ego, offered an alternate path and delivered an indictment of Obama that was calibrated and smart.
And now, I'm going to collapse into a post-RNC coma.