By John Barron
After two decades seeking various public offices and only achieving victory once, Mitt Romney is the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, and within striking distance of winning the White House this November.
Like his father George, Mitt has combined a successful business career with a stint as governor and a run at the presidency.
But unlike the elder Romney, who as a moderate favoured civil rights, opposed the Vietnam War, and found himself out of step with the Goldwater-era GOP of the mid-1960’s, George's son has taken the helm of the Republican Party — for the next 66 days at least.
During the first two days of the Republican National Convention there was a concerted attempt to breathe some humanity into Romney’s robotic, patrician image; Ann Romney’s engaging speech on the first night of the storm-shortened shindig will help on that front, if anything can.
After a faded-looking John McCain haunted the convention's second night as the ghost of campaigns-past, the youthful Paul Ryan established himself as the fresh face of the future.
The 42 year old Wisconsinite charmed and thrilled the Republican faithful, while bending, stretching and flat out breaking the truth.
But all the time smiling and with those dreamy blue eyes that invite trust.
Ryan is lucky. Romney would probably rank as equally handsome, yet somehow looks uncertain, his heavy brow furrowed with the hint of self doubt.
Beyond the purely physical aspects, this week we’ve seen a careful attempt at a redrawing of Romney’s image: a shy teenager who married his high school sweetheart, a successful businessman who is also a caring family man who irons his own inexpensive shirts (despite a quarter-billion dollar bank balance), and listens to what Paul Ryan called "elevator music".
But after three days of being talked about by others, what would Mitt Romney say? Would we see him with new eyes?
The buildup to Romney’s acceptance speech was unexpected to say the least.
Veteran Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took the stage and inexplicably squabbled with an empty chair he pretended seated an invisible Barack Obama.
The 82 year old seemed a bit befuddled as he accused Obama of letting down all of those who held high hopes for his presidency, and then seemed to blame Obama for the war in Afghanistan, which began seven years before he was elected:
I know you were against the war in Iraq, and that's okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK. You know, I mean — you thought that was something worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how did it — they did there for ten years.
It was either a sad sign of an ageing icon, reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s confused appearance at the 1994 Grammys, or a brilliantly executed diversion from the main event.
It even overshadowed the other young gun of the Republican Party, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who radiates an attractive assured humility and made the most impressive big-stage debut since a Democratic senatorial candidate named Barack Obama in 2004.
Twitter was buzzing with reporters, pundits, and campaign insiders saying “what was that about?”
As for Romney himself, he continued to fill in some of his biographical blanks, talking about his church without going into specifics about his Mormon faith.
This was his real introduction to the American people, and wisely he was portraying himself as rock-solid, not a rock star.
Mitt Romney surely knows he will never outshine Obama, but he’s hoping to convince Americans he can out-govern him.
“You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
It was a stinging line that will resonate with some 2008 Obama voters feeling buyer’s remorse.
Romney also contrasted his opponent’s inflated rhetoric with his own simple aims:
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans, my promise is to help you and your family."
He was sincere and assured in that moment — and you get the feeling if he can recapture that tone in the next ten weeks and in the three head-to-head debates, Mitt Romney has a very good chance.
But he also knows that a man who made his name in a convention speech is getting ready for his moment next week in Charlotte.
31 August 2012