The four-hour show last night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum was supposed to introduce Mitt to America. It probably succeeded. Stepping into the Sheraton lobby to catch some AC on the long walk back to the parking lot, I heard Brett Baier confess to Megyn Kelly that he saw a Romney he didn't know, though he'd covered the guy for years.
The evening did not get off with a bang. After a superficial movie about Reagan and a rather contrived duet by Newt and Callista, came a tribute to diversity. Hispanic Republicans were celebrated in a video. Across the floor, the signs went up: "Hispanics 4 Mitt." Then it was the turn of women. The nominee's broad-mindedness, no pun, was celebrated in speeches by his former Lieutenant Governor and by a Cabinet member, not only a woman, but an African-American and self-described liberal Democrat. She was clearly smitten with Mitt, and spoke enthusiastically about his honesty and sincerity-and his filling half his Cabinet with women. On cue, the "Women (heart) Mitt" signs were waved.
There followed a robust defense of Bain. In a video, presidents and employees of several companies described the turn-around Mitt had engineered, and testified to the hard work Mitt had personally put into the firms Bain invested in.
Then came a stirring speech by another CEO, Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples. He went on to pound Obama in a way that the politicians had mostly refrained from doing, including Connie Mack and Jeb Bush earlier in the evening. Jeb's platitudinous speech on education was preceded by a preface inserted at the last minute which took a few swipes at the Anointed One -- he had to get it off his chest, Jeb apologized. The remarks included an odd slap at W. After saying how much he honored and respected his father and grandfather, he went on, "My brother... Well, I love my brother."
Some of the evening's most moving moments came during the testimony of church friends who spoke of Mitt's selflessness and compassion in helping them during the illnesses and after the deaths of their children. One was a retired firefighter and his wife, the other a friend and neighbor, who was visibly moved, and moving. Another Mormon, a closer friend, spoke effectively about how inspiring and energizing Romney was to be around.
Similar testimony came from former Olympians Mike Eruzione, Derek Parra, and Kim Rhode. Parra's emotions seemed to touch the audience.
Eighty-two-year-old Clint Eastwood gave a meandering speech, which included a lame ad lib interview with Obama, who was represented by an empty chair. But the crowd ate it up and boomed "Make My Day!" when Eastwood gave the prompt.
Marco Rubio, who in person looks like he's no more than fifteen, as expected gave an effective speech that roused the audience. The burden was that people have come to America to escape the kind of government Obama is intent on imposing on this country. He spoke at length about his grandfather and bartender father, how they believed in the American dream that their exertions and sacrifices would guarantee a better life for their children. Obama has turned that dream into a nightmare. Americans have lost hope in the future. "He's not a bad man," said Rubio charitably. "But he's a bad President." He then introduced the nominee.
Mitt hit a home run. He talked about his family, his dad's struggles to succeed, his actress-mother's political ambitions -- she ran for Senator before George held office. (Up went the "Women (heart) Mitt" signs.) He spoke of his own need to step out of his dad's shadow and leave Detroit, and his struggle to succeed. He knew that his wife, raising five boys, was doing a more difficult and important job, he assured the audience, to resounding cheers.
Romney sounded some of the notes of the previous two days. We had great expectations of Obama, but Americans are now struggling. We're worse off today than in January 2009. The President either has to ask for patience or blame his predecessor. Mitt reiterated the comparison with Jimmy Carter, another amateur hopelessly out of his depth, and ticked off the ways in which Obama has damaged the economy. He pledged to help entrepreneurs and small businesses and create 12 million new jobs. A big applause line: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."
But Romney got the most applause, and apparently the most tweets per minute, when he spoke about foreign policy, a subject that came up infrequently at the convention. "President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators." He criticized Obama for betraying America's friends and showing "flexibility" toward her enemies, and thereby jeopardizing the country's security.
There was one disruption, by a few Paulista alternates, who unfurled a pink banner. They were drowned out by "USA, USA."
Outside the barricades, the demonstrators, except for 3 or 4 scruffy guys who'd time-traveled from 1968, were Ron Paul supporters. These numbered about twenty. Literally thousands of heavily armed police and National Guard troops massed outside the convention complex, on bikes, on horses, on foot, parading, standing in line, sometimes milling around blocking traffic. They must have set a Guinness world record for the ratio of police to protestors. The other Book of World Records contender at the convention was the vile food and pathetic selection offered by the Forum.
Don't expect the campaign to stray from the economy. Jack Cashill speculated here a few days ago about Romney confronting O during a debate about the President's shadowy past. Mitt is not going anywhere near the subject.
Solyndra will be mentioned, but not Fast and Furious. You're not going to hear much about the Constitution, and there will be no mention of abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration, or Islamic fundamentalism. The policy of the federal government that probably claims the most victims, Affirmative Action, is completely off the table.
Romney will even tread lightly about Obamacare. The President will be rapped for robbing seniors, taking $713 billion from Medicare to fund O-Care, and for imposing what the Chief Justice has declared to be a massive new tax. Obamacare will be represented as something that harms small businesses, tout court.
There will be a relentless focus on the economy. Expect to hear over and over about our 42 weeks of over 8% unemployment, and the 23 million unemployed.
Obama will essentially be indicted as a bad manager who needs to be replaced
Let's hope this is right formula, and that Republicans will be able to get their message across to an electorate schooled by the media, the film industry, and the public schools to loathe the rich and to believe that wealth comes from exploitation of the poor.
Jeff Lipkes attended the RNC as an accredited correspondent for American Thinker.