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The Daily Debate - 8/29/2012

By Robert Tracinski

The Daily Debate

edited by Robert Tracinski

Brought to you by RealClearPolitics.

To read this newsletter on the web, go here.

August 29, 2012

1. The Real Romney

2. The Adults

3. The Women

4. Around the RealClear Universe

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1. The Real Romney

Jeff Zeleny describes the main purpose of the Republican convention.

"The Republican gathering served as an opportunity not only to hammer Mr. Obama but also, perhaps more important, to humanize Mr. Romney in front of the wider audience he needs to win over before November. The leader of that effort was his wife of 42 years, who urged voters to take a chance on her husband to improve the lives of all Americans struggling in challenging economic times.

"'You may not agree with Mitt's positions on issues or his politics,' Mrs. Romney said. 'But let me say this to every American who is thinking about who should be our next president: No one will work harder. No one will care more.'

"As the audience listened intently, she added: 'This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America.'"

My own impression is that Mrs. Romney started out a bit artificial and with an inappropriate style. Speaking to a national party convention is very difficult. There is a natural tendency to act as if you are speaking in person to a massive outdoor rally, because that's what it must look like to a speaker at the center of a cavernous hall filled with wildly cheering partisans. But in reality, you are speaking through the television cameras to the independent swing voters back at home. Ann Romney started as if she was was doing the former and had to ease into doing the latter. But by the end, when she vowed that Mitt Romney would not fail, she was fixing the camera with a steady, deadly earnest gaze and letting us know that she really meant it.

The result is that the speech seems to have been positively received across the political spectrum. John Cassidy describes the effect of the speech on the Republican base, and also, indirectly, on the mainstream left.

"The G.O.P. was finally falling in love with Romney—Ann Romney. By the time she got back to talking up her man, the real business of the night, she was positively beaming....

"People told them they were too young to wed, she recalled. 'We just didn't care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment,' where we 'ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish,' using folded door for a desk and an ironing board for a kitchen table.

"I don't know who wrote this stuff, or whether the details about the door and the ironing board are true, but it was good. Simple, direct, touching—everything Mitt isn't....

"After a brief recitation of her husband's business career, in which she managed to avoid saying the words 'Bain Capital,' and a detour into his good works for his church and neighbors, which he doesn't talk about because 'he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point,' it was onto the payoff. Nobody would work harder for America, or care more about America than her hubby. A serious expression replaced the winning smile. She raised her right hand and wagged her index finger in a manner that reminded me of Mrs. Thatcher.

"'I can only stand here as a wife, a mother, and a grandmother, and make you this solemn commitment: this man will not fail you.'"

What struck me most was that I was expecting this speech to be about the "humanizing" stories, particularly Romney's acts of charity, which are all the more convincing for having been done out of the public spotlight. But I was surprised that the central theme, the issue on which Mrs. Romney was most passionate and sincere, was that her husband is a man who succeeds, who gets things done, who delivers the goods. He will not fail. Maybe that's the message people need to hear right now. I certainly don't think it does Mitt Romney any harm.

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2. The Adults

John Podhoretz sums up the impact of the two biggest speeches of the night.

"The evening showcased two speeches that represented two key aspects of the American electorate—the two aspects of the American voter to which [Romney] needs to appeal if he is to win in November.

"One is the heart. The other is the spine....

"The blissful haze that fell over the convention when Mrs. Romney was done was instantly replaced by the blustery charge of New Jersey's Chris Christie. It was his choice to use his keynote address to try to stiffen the national spine. Mrs. Romney said she wanted to talk about love. Christie went in the opposite direction: 'Tonight,' he said, 'we're going to choose respect over love.'

"His speech was focused on the notion that Americans want to be, expect to be and should be treated as self-governing adults rather than as dependents—citizens ready to deal with the 'hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future.'"

Robert Costa notes how this departs from the traditional role of the first-night keynote address, and reports that this was a deliberate choice by the Romney campaign.

"Christie's approach was a marked departure from previous Republican keynote addresses, which have often featured a rising politician willing to blast the Democratic nominee. Christie, for his part, did not once mention President Obama by name. Instead, his 2,600-word speech introduced the country to his singular brand, which blends a brusque rhetorical style with a reform agenda....

"'It was a conscious decision,' says former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, a senior Romney adviser. 'When the keynote speaker, who usually assumes the attack role, doesn't attack, that's not an accident. It signals that the campaign believes that the country has a negative opinion of Obama and that it has to offer a different vision.'"

RCP's Scott Conroy writes that "Christie sought to differentiate the core beliefs he said were held by Republicans and Democrats, arguing that the former were willing to make difficult choices for the greater good, while the latter believed that Americans needed to be 'coddled.'" He highlights some of the key quotes from the speech.

"Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity is fleeting and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and emotions of the times. Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say 'yes,' rather than to say 'no' when 'no' is what's required....

"Now, we ended an era of absentee leadership without purpose or principle in New Jersey. I'm here to tell you tonight, it's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and we need them right now."

Charles Hurt sums up the "responsible adults" theme.

"By picking Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney made a very political decision that his campaign for the presidency will be about offering serious solutions to gravely serious problems.

"It will be the group of adults versus the once-hip youngsters cruising around on one final bender before graduating from college."

There has been a lot of emphasis on how Romney is going to have to counteract his image as a heartless corporate raider. But it strikes me that he is working even harder to counteract another impression of him: that he is a facile pragmatist who prefers to mouth vague platitudes and coast to the presidency merely on the weakness of his opponent. Thus, he has made a series of decisions, from the selection of Paul Ryan to the focus of Christie's keynote, that make him look like a man willing to make hard decisions and face the big issues head-on.

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3. The Women

RCP's Caitlin Huey-Burns provides a run-down of how last night came to be the de facto women's night at the convention.

"Republicans have been chafing at the Democrats' signature 2012 campaign narrative that the GOP has embarked on a 'war on women,' but they have struggled with how to counter it.

"On the first night of their convention here Tuesday, however, the GOP gave an answer. It came in the form of 10 female speakers, including Ann Romney, along with the imparted wisdom from a Sicilian-American woman who passed away eight years ago—the mother of keynoter Chris Christie....

"Republicans had not originally planned to pack the first night with speeches from women, but an intruder with a male name—Isaac—condensed the Monday and Tuesday schedule into a single time slot. By the end of the evening, for one day at least, the fallout from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's ruminations about 'legitimate rape' was a distant memory."

Well, not too distant, if every reporter feels compelled to mention it. Huey-Burns singles out one woman who made a distinct impression.

"Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and candidate for a U.S. House seat, took to the podium first and brought many members of the crowd to their feet. Love recalled her Haitian parents immigrating to the United States with but a few dollars in their pockets."

I agree that Love has the makings of a serious rising star. She has a forceful, charismatic, energetic personality, she is extremely confident and articulate, and she's pretty easy on the eyes—and let's face it, that doesn't hurt in this business. (Ask Mitt Romney.)

And she is a rock-ribbed conservative of the "I built this," rugged individualism school. See a sampling of her comments.

"My parents immigrated to the United States with $10 in their pocket and a belief that the America they had heard about really did exist as the land of opportunity. Through hard work and great sacrifice, they achieved success. So the America I came to know growing up was filled with all the excitement and possibilities found in living the American dream.

"Watching my father work odd jobs in order to provide for us and maintain his independence taught me valuable lessons in personal responsibility. When tough times came, he didn't look to Washington, he looked within. Because the America he knew was centered on self-reliance. The America I know is founded in the freedom self-reliance always brings.

"What makes America great is the idea that when government is limited, people are free—free to work, free to live, free to choose, free to fail and free to achieve. The America I know provides everyone an equal opportunity to be as unequaled as they choose to be."

Mayor Love also highlights another theme that may or may not have been calculated to counteract the left's caricature of the Republican Party: she is black, as is Democratic apostate Artur Davis, who spoke in prime time. Tuesday night also featured an Indian-American governor, Nikki Haley, and a Hispanic governor, Brian Sandoval, and Ann Romney was introduced, with a very conspicuous Spanich accent, by Luce Vela Gutierrez, the wife of the Republican governor of Puerto Rico, who is speaking tonight.

There is, you might infer, a certain effort to highlight the party's success in reaching out to demographics that generally support the Democrats.

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4. Around the RealClear Universe

There's much more on the main page at RealClearPolitics, and here are some highlights and sidelights from around the RealClear universe.

RealClearMarkets continues heavy coverage of the renewed discussion of the gold standard. For example, John Tamny argues that the "lost decade" of loose money in the Bush and Obama years is what has created pressure for a gold commission, while Brian Domitrovic explains how the mere fact of such a commission can have a deterrent effect on the Fed.

RealClearWorld links to Thomas Friedman's ominous warning about how Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood leader seems to be turning toward Iran.

RealClearTechnology links to an overview of how academia is finally succumbing to the "disruptive technology" of Silicon Valley. It is appropriately accompanied by an illustration showing academia as a beseiged castle, drawn in a Medieval style—the style of the era in which the basic structure of the university was developed.

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—Robert Tracinski

Robert Tracinski is also editor of The Tracinski Letter.

Follow me on Twitter.

Send comments or suggestions to tracinski@realclearpolitics.com.

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