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Hit or Miss, Romney Takes Ownership of His Speeches

Hit or Miss, Romney Takes Ownership of His Speeches

By Scott Conroy - February 4, 2012


"I love the hymns," Mitt Romney told a crowd of supporters last week in Hialeah, Fla. "I love the hymns of this nation."

As he does in nearly all of his stump speeches, Romney next recited some of his favorite verses of the patriotic song "America the Beautiful."

The crowd, which had been boisterous up until that point, was subdued as the former Massachusetts governor extolled the song's unnamed "heroes" who "proved in liberating strife" that "more than self their country loved and mercy more than life."

The collective energy among those at the parking lot rally seemed to subside even further as Romney lauded the “patriot dream that sees beyond the years,” and the crowd did not come to life again until he shouted down a protester with particular gusto.

Romney’s recitation of “America the Beautiful” rarely, if ever, generates much reaction from the multitudes whom it is intended to rouse or inspire. And yet, the lines remain in his stump speech.

So why not try something else that might resonate a bit more?

Because, as Romney says, he loves the hymns.

“There are a lot of people who make suggestions to the governor and provide drafts to him, but the governor uses a heavy red pencil” in his speeches, said spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. “Everything that he says -- whether it’s at a news conference, a debate, or a formal speech -- flows from his own pen. He is ultimately his own speechwriter.”

After decades of management experience, Romney has no problem delegating to his large staff most of the countless daily tasks that are part of an effective presidential operation, and he makes no attempt to run the do-it-all-yourself campaign that Newt Gingrich has largely helmed.

But speechwriting is one aspect of his presidential enterprise that Mitt Romney takes a particularly active role in.

The former governor may never be accused of challenging President Obama’s oratorical prowess, but he nonetheless has full ownership of his words on the trail.

Though he is known primarily as a data-driven numbers wiz, Romney was an English major and the valedictorian of his graduating class at Brigham Young University, and penned his own 2011 political manifesto, “No Apology.”

Romney’s confidence in his writing ability is self-evident, and as opposed to the extemporaneous Gingrich, he is far more effective when speaking words written in advance than speaking off the cuff.

In contrast to his GOP opponents, Romney in his most high-profile addresses typically reads off of a teleprompter -- the high-tech politician’s crutch that has been the butt of so many Republican jokes about Obama’s frequent reliance on it.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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