No policy but lots of fanfare in Florida
THE SPEECH:MITT ROMNEY and Paul Ryan began a two-day tour of Florida, Virginia and Ohio yesterday, following Mr Romney’s well-received speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday night.
At the same time, President Barack Obama set out for the swing states of Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia, en route to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, which begins on Tuesday and will culminate with Mr Obama’s address on Thursday night.
The Romney-Ryan ticket is expected to receive the usual “bump” in poll numbers following a three-day convention that was marked by anxiety over Hurricane Isaac, in which two Americans lost their lives, and protests from hecklers and disgruntled Ron Paul delegates.
In question is how long the momentum will last, and whether it will be overtaken by the Democratic ticket’s “bump” next week. The last eight national polls have shown the two candidates within two points of each other.
Mr Romney’s speech was billed as the first time he has properly introduced himself to voters. It focused on the centrality of family, country and work to his life, and was repeatedly punctuated by deafening chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A”.
The speech followed hours of testimonials from Mr Romney’s former colleagues at Bain Capital, who mounted a tardy counter-offensive to attacks from the Obama campaign. Olympic medal winners emotionally recounted how Mr Romney saved the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Officials who served under him when he was governor of Massachusetts said Mr Romney worked without pay and promoted women to high-ranking positions. Mr Romney’s fellow Mormons portrayed him as “a man of passion and compassion”, traits not associated with him until now.
Mr Romney lamented Mr Obama’s record in office, saying he was sorry the president had failed “because I want America to succeed”.
Referring to Mr Obama’s 2008 campaign, Mr Romney said: “Hope and change had a powerful appeal, but tonight I’d ask a simple question: 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 when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
Mr Romney reiterated his promise to create 12 million jobs, but gave no indication of how he and Mr Ryan had arrived at that figure, or why it was not 15 million, or 23 million, the number of under-employed and jobless, according to the Romney campaign.
Some had hoped Mr Romney would put meat on his economic plan, but he merely listed his intention to exploit oil, coal, gas and nuclear energy; let parents choose their children’s schools; crack down on trade violations by foreign countries; cut the deficit; cut taxes and regulation, and repeal the healthcare law.
If elected, Mr Romney promised he would “work with all my energy and soul to restore . . . America, to lift our eyes to a better future”.
Opinion was divided on whether a rambling speech by the actor and director Clint Eastwood, who had been billed as the “mystery guest”, helped the campaign or was a distraction.
Mr Eastwood addressed an empty chair that was supposed to represent President Obama. “This administration hasn’t done enough. Now I think possibly it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem,” he said.
Puritanical members of the audience squirmed when the actor twice used an off-colour joke. “What do you want me to tell Romney?” he asked the imaginary Obama, replying, “I can’t tell him to do that to himself.”
Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced Mr Romney, criticised Mr Obama’s “old, big government ideas: ideas that people come to America to get away from, ideas that threaten to make America more like the rest of the world, instead of helping the world become more like America”.
In the three-hour build-up to Mr Romney’s speech, stories of his comforting dying children were particularly emotional. The camera swept the audience, projecting images of weeping people on giant screens behind the podium.
“I will never forget that, when he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back,” said Pam Finlayson, the mother of critically ill baby Kate.
Ted and Pat Oparowski, Mr Romney’s parishioners when he was a lay clergyman in a Boston suburb, told how the presidential candidate had befriended their 14-year-old son David on his deathbed, organising a fireworks display and helping the boy to draw up a will.
The child asked to be buried in his boy scout uniform, and requested that Mr Romney deliver the eulogy at his funeral.
Mr Romney, it seemed, could do everything except walk on water. But the powerful testimonies were confined to the arena in Tampa; the only speeches broadcast on prime time television were those by Eastwood, Rubio and Romney.