Fans cheer for Romney with Obama on their minds
Delegates were fixated on Barack Obama rather than on their own ‘family man’ Mitt Romney, writes LARA MARLOWEat the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida
THE REPUBLICAN convention that ended last night resembled a giant carnival where thousands of delegates, alternates and party supporters milled around, listening to speeches and trading stories of the iniquities of the Obama administration.
The Republicans were animated by scorn for Barack Obama, whose out-of-control spending is, they say, calculated to foster dependency on the government. They blame him for the 8.2 per cent unemployment rate in the United States, and the Affordable Care Act, which they see as a “government takeover” of healthcare. The glorious moment when Barack and Michelle at last step into that helicopter on the White House lawn was an oft-described fantasy.
The fixation was with Obama, not their own candidate. Delegates rarely spoke of Mitt Romney unprompted, as if the candidate’s blandness had stifled their imagination. Two observations recurred in some dozen interviews on the convention floor: Mitt Romney was a good family man, and with his business experience, he’d fix the economy. No one saw him as the Messiah.
Jim Thienel (65) chairs the Oakland County, Michigan, Republican Party. Thienel was more excited than most, telling me that on a scale of one to 10, his enthusiasm for Romney’s candidacy was 11.
“We have a choice between socialism or freedom,” he said. “Socialism has failed everywhere in the world. Barack Obama never signed a paycheck in his life. Mitt Romney has run corporations.”
Yet even the Michigan delegation seemed removed from Mitt. Thienel’s appliance repair business is located in Bloomfield Hills, the affluent town where Romney grew up. He used to service the late Lenore Romney’s (Mitt’s mother’s), two refrigerators and stacked washer-dryer.
“She was the most gracious lady I ever met,” he said. “Mitt
left at an early age. We consider him to be a hometown guy because of his father.” (George Romney was the chief executive of American Motors, governor of Michigan and a failed presidential candidate.)
Thienel sees the Republican party as a guarantor of family values, while Democrats are synonymous with poverty and crime. The 10 poorest cities in the States are governed by Democrats, he tells me. “They have the highest crime, because of long-term Democratic control and no moral values.”
Roger Simon (69) is a conservative novelist, screen writer and colourful character who lives in the Hollywood home that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe. He wore a purple jacket, striped shirt and panama hat while recording a video of the convention for his PJ Media website.
Asked about his level of enthusiasm for Romney, Simon replies: “I have a tremendous un-enthusiasm level for Barack Obama. I would vote for anyone before Obama. Romney’s as good as anybody else.”
“Don’t Believe the Liberal Media” says a huge billboard in downtown Tampa.
The same message is found on bumper stickers and posters across the country. But Simon expresses himself more forcefully. “The mainstream media are a bunch of vicious, lying motherf**kers,” he says. “They elected Obama. Today they’re embarrassed that he failed.”
Simon calls the Republican party “pretty divided” over social issues, on which he counts himself a libertarian. Abortion and other social issues are, he says, “a phoney baloney attempt to distract attention. I say, keep the government out of the bedroom. Gay marriage is the easiest issue in the world; let people marry whomever they want to.”