From the lead editorial in today's Wall Street Journal:
The immediate media consensus, especially on the political right, seems to be that Mitt Romney "did what he had to do" in his GOP convention speech Thursday. He repaired an image battered by Obama attack ads, showed he appreciates women, defended Bain Capital and criticized President Obama more in sorrow than in anger. On to the White House!
Well, maybe. Mr. Romney's speech did hit all of those essential points, but the one thing it didn't do constitutes a major political gamble. Neither he nor the entire GOP convention made a case for his economic policy agenda. He and Paul Ryan promised to help the middle class, but they never explained other than in passing how they would do it....
This isn't because Mr. Romney lacks an agenda. His platform is brimming with ideas, most of them good and many excellent. He simply didn't talk about them. No doubt this was a strategic political calculation—perhaps a judgment, based on polling, that Mr. Romney's main challenge is to reassure undecided voters that he's not heartless, scary or extreme.
The thinking would be that Mr. Obama's approval rating remains below 50% and voters are prepared to fire him, so all Mr. Romney needs to do is to show Americans that he's competent and presidential....
Ergo, the "safe" political strategy.
Perhaps this is how it will all turn out, but someone should point out that this policy-free zone is risky in its own way. By failing to explain his own agenda, Mr. Romney has left an opening for Democrats and Mr. Obama to define it instead. We wouldn't be surprised to see them pivot away from personal attacks on Mr. Romney and Bain next week and devote all of their time to assailing his policies.
I'm among those who believe Mitt did what he needed to do, but all the same I grant that the Wall Street Journal makes a point here. Mitt certainly proved that he's--well, that he's human. Yet appearing presidential also requires the demonstration of a certain seriousness, particularly the ability to explain how specific policies are related to underlying principles or ideals--and just how those policies will improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
Throughout the campaign, Mitt has chosen to become steadily more substantive. Over the next 60 days--and particularly in the debates--the candidate needs to become more substantive still.
Or so I think. You?