John Baer: Hits and misses on Romney's big night

Mitt Romney speaks at the Republican National Convention. His speech offered few specifics of what he would do in office.
Mitt Romney speaks at the Republican National Convention. His speech offered few specifics of what he would do in office. (GETTY IMAGES)
Posted: August 31, 2012

IT WAS sort of hit and miss.

Assuming Mitt Romney's goal was to address questions about his seemingly genetic rich-guy aloofness, his Mormon faith, Bain Capital and whether he can excite his party's base without alienating women, it was mostly mission accomplished.

But in terms of delivery, of offering America a crystal-clear picture of where he'd take the nation if elected in November, it was mostly mission aborted.

(Maybe that's the wrong word for anything to do with the GOP these days.)

On one hand, Mitt managed to please those in Tampa clapping, waving signs and wearing funny hats while also speaking of his faith, business success and core Republican values.

He avoided hard bashing of President Obama, instead saying Obama's campaign promises "gave way to disappointment and division" and that Obama "hasn't led America in the right direction."

He spoke of his own faith, of how "our church" is diverse and vibrant and always helping people, just like "how it is in America."

In other words, see? Not a cult. More like apple pie.

He touted the success of companies such as Staples, the Sports Authority and a steel mill in Indiana under the management of Bain.

And he did a roll call of women, including his mother, his wife and Republican leaders, while noting that as governor of Massachusetts he picked a woman for lieutenant governor and a woman as his chief of staff.

All, one would think, to the political good.

On the other hand, he offered only broad, vague views about his vision for the future and his fixes for the economy.

His pledge earlier this month, for example, to add 12 million jobs in four years was reasserted and promised anew through more job training, deficit reduction and energy independence.

Americans haven't heard anything like that since Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and everybody that ran against them.

This 12 million jobs thing might offer a hint as to the realism, practicality and political smarts Mitt's campaign represents. Or it could come back as a Democratic theme in 2016 should Romney win in November.

The good news for Romney fans is that while shying away from details to back up specific economic pledges, he also managed to avoid references to his unshared tax returns, offshore accounts or a pet that famously ended up strapped to the roof of his car.

He used the same sort of cape-waving ole to avoid his party's call for a no-exceptions abortion ban and its new support of unlimited bullet capacity in guns - positions likely to gore the sensibilities of many voters.

Instead he stressed a softer side.

He spoke of a united America (apparently he's not keeping up with social media, national polling or political reality) and said, "That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly and will give a helping hand to those in need."

The line could have come from any speech at any Democratic convention. And it's a tad different from what he said at the last GOP convention speaking in support of John McCain.

(Romney left the '08 race after winning 11 primaries or caucuses, including Alaska and his home states of Michigan, Massachusetts and Utah.)

"We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington," he said at the '08 convention in St. Paul, Minn. "Throw out the big-government liberals."

This was somewhat odd because President Bush was in office at the time, unless Mitt meant Congress, which had nothing to do with McCain's campaign.

So the man who's been labeled a moderate, a liberal, a profound conservative and who, at the moment, is a 50-50 bet to be our next president, has had hits and misses.

He had both Thursday night.


Contact John Baer at baerj@phillynews.com. For his recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.

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