Did Mitt just have his first moment of "campaign magic" with the NAACP? Tim Stanley of the UK Telegraph thinks so, though he specifies that it was not the usual charismatic sort of oratorical magic, but rather a challenge, and it came late in the speech, after a slow start.
It wasn't quite a game changer, but Mitt Romney finally gave voters a moment of magic in his NAACP convention speech this Wednesday. For once, style and content rose to the occasion. He even earned himself a standing ovation from a civil rights lobby - a big win for a Republican candidate. [...]
At first, Romney started as badly as we've come to expect. Here's Mitt's problem: the substance of his speeches might be appropriate, but he never adjusts his style to suit the situation. Close your eyes and he could have been speaking in a tractor factory. Bill Clinton might have invoked "my sweet Lord" and shed a few tears over some saccharine anecdote. Mitt just ploughed on like he was giving a breakdown of this year's company profits. [...]
When Mitt announced that he was committed to repealing Obamacare, he was booed. That seems to have been some sort of turning point, for the crowd and for Romney. He didn't flinch or falter:
Pledging - with all the enthusiasm of a quarterly report from accounts - to make jobs his priority, Romney finally stepped off script and addressed the boos head on. "If you want a president who will make things better for the African-American community, you are looking at him," he said. "You take a look."
"Take a look." It was cocky, cheeky, maybe even a little rude. But it's also making a YouTube sensation. Finally, it put the Romney arrogance to good use - saying, "I don't care what the critics say. I'm right, the numbers show that the President's wrong and, darn it, you people need me." With a message like that, Clintonian theatrics are unnecessary.
This fortitude may have won him some respect, and more importantly, his challenge to take a look may find any number of takers. When he closed with his memories of his father, that appears to have triggered the unexpected standing ovation. Stanley again:
Mitt closed by talking about his father, George Romney. Mitt's done this a number of times on the campaign trail in a vain bid to give himself a narrative beyond "When I was a kid, I got an A in math." It usually fails to get a response from the audience. But this time, Romney reminded the NAACP that his father had backed civil rights laws as Governor of Michigan and marched with protesters. In other words, there is a history of Republican support for the black freedom struggle that predates the Democratic one. In fact, while George Wallace was standing on the school door and the Kennedys were tapping Martin Luther King Jnr's phone, some Republican lawmakers were fighting the good fight against segregation.
And what motivated George? According to Mitt, it was his Mormonism: "My father was a man of faith who knew that every person was a child of God." For that, Mitt earned himself a chord on the church organ. By the end of the speech, the audience was on its feet.
Put aside race for a moment. These were mostly Protestants, many of whom are active in churches, standing in approval of a Mormon's religious convictions. Something happened here worth examining closely.
Mitt may be finding his campaign persona, bit by bit. Fortitude is not a bad quality. People respect it.
Update: The mainstream media has chosen to focus on the boos, and downplay if not ignore the standing ovation. Let them! They are in denial, and cannot put a cofferdam around momentum. Mitt went into the Lion's den and emerged with a standing ovation. He kknows it, we know it, and the NAACP knows it.
Hat tip: Steve McCann