No doubt about it, this is the most important speech of Mitt Romney’s political life, at least so far. On his second try for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, a disciplined Mitt Romney took on one conservative challenger after another this year and emerged victorious. For the second election cycle in a row, a Republican Party that is moving to the right has nominated someone with moderate roots.
This party may never come to love Mitt Romney, but he is their standard bearer now and party operatives will apply maximum pressure to make sure the rank and file party faithful get behind Mr. Romney, even if it’s only because they’ll do anything do defeat President Obama.
Big Moment But Will He Step Up?
Mr. Romney has been building toward this moment for decades and like so many politicians, it began with defeats. In fact, most of the truly successful national politicians usually have one early defeat on their resume, and those defeats often provide valuable insights down the road.
Mitt Romney took on Democratic icon Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts in 1994 and even though he lost, he made a favorable enough impression with some voters that he was able to win the state’s race for governor in 2002. Four years ago, though well financed and organized, Mr. Romney lost out to John McCain and learned some tough lessons about what it takes to appeal to the conservative base of the Republican Party, especially for a former moderate from Massachusetts.
But even hardcore Republicans here in Tampa acknowledge that the Romney acceptance speech has to be more than just a bashing President Barack Obama’s economic record and a laundry list of what the Republican candidate would do as president.
More than any time in his political career, Mitt Romney has to pull back the curtain and let Americans see more of who he really is, what he stands for in his core, and why they should entrust him with the highest office in the land.
Ryan as Attack Dog
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan made his national debut as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate Wednesday with a partisan speech that got the delegates up on their feet several times. Ryan is used to the partisan thrust and parry of the House of Representatives, but he’s on a bigger stage now and most voters have yet to form an opinion about him, something both parties will work on for sure.
Ryan got off some good lines about the disappointment many people feel about President Obama’s economic record and really roused the conservative base in the room with his aggressive attacks on government spending and the need to cut the deficit. But Democrats have been hammering Ryan about what they say are some misleading and false attacks in his speech.
One that may be tough for him to defend is a suggestion in his speech that the president was responsible for the closing of General Motors auto plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, in December of 2008. Problem with that is Mr. Obama didn’t take the oath of office until January 20th, 2009. Oops.
Ryan is a fresh face among the GOP faithful this year and could have a bright future no matter which way the election goes in November. But a big part of his task in the weeks ahead will be to serve as Mitt Romney’s main attack dog, and that role always carries peril for an ambitious politician looking to build a national constituency.