24 hours after Romney’s first real chance to connect with the voters en masse, the consensus that seems to be emerging is that he did well… or, at least, well for a stiff and awkward candidate. National pundits and columnists seem to think the speech could help Romney’s chances moderately, but fell far short of a game-changer. They don’t see this speech going down in the annals of history’s great addresses.
Granted, it remains to be seen whether Romney gets a post-convention “bounce”, but I actually think the speech and his delivery of it was very good. Better than he’s getting credit for.
As much as anything, this speech was about making Romney comes across as a real person. On that score, I thought he fared quite well. He seemed to project warmth and humility throughout, and even got choked up when he talked about his parents’ marriage. The words he said weren’t going to bowl anyone over in and of themselves, but his demeanor was effective. Voters seem to believe Romney is competent when it comes to handling matters like the economy, but they will feel more motivated to elect him if they also like him and believe he’s a real person who understands the concerns of everyday people. He found that common touch Thursday night.
Romney’s taken criticism for not talking much about policy in his speech, and for remaining scant on details when he actually did delve into policy matters. Some have said his speech also lacked a coherent narrative tying everything together. Fair enough. I agree.
But how many of us generally remember the details and themes of any political speech an hour after we’ve heard it anyway? We generally walk away with personal impressions and a key line or two in our mind, not a detailed analysis of what was said. Not only did Romney leave a positive impression in terms of his demeanor, but he also got in a couple memorable one-liners that may stick:
“If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? 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.”
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
These seemed like effective ways for Romney to question President Obama’s job performance and invite undecided voters to do the same, but without making it personal. Romney even said at one point that he wished Obama would’ve succeeded because he (Romney) wanted the country to succeed. For independent voters who are tired of the partisan bickering and who like Barack Obama personally but aren’t sure he’s done a great job, I could see this approach making some inroads in their thinking for Romney. ”Enough with the grandiose talk, let’s get down to brass tacks,” Romney seemed to be saying.
It may not have been a speech for the ages, but I thought Romney delivered an eight or a nine on a ten-point scale. My guess is that many who didn’t know much about him before now have a much more positive impression of him heading into the fall.
Next up: President Obama at the Democratic National Convention, where he will be called on to deliver an equally important speech next week. The president is a naturally gifted orator who usually rises to these occasions. It should set the stage for a fascinating and close election.
The convention speeches are great opportunities to start the home stretch of the campaign on a positive note. The Clint Eastwood debacle notwithstanding, I thought Romney made the most of his opportunity.