Mitt Romney is not, and never will be, an electrifying public speaker. He has improved a great deal since the spring, but clearly this is a not a guy who’s capable of delivering a stemwinder. His acceptance speech on the closing night of this week’s Republican National Convention wasn’t great; it wasn’t even good.
But it may have been good enough.
Most important, he stayed within himself. At the outset, he stayed within where he lived. Speaking of his parents’ marriage, and his own to an obviously capable women — the catches in the throat and the humidity in the eyes were modest and sincere revelations.
He spun these moments, plus a recollection of his mother’s run for U.S. Senate to make a hard push for female votes — which is the direction his campaign seemed like it was headed at the beginning of the month, before the choice of Rep. Paul Ryan and the consequent Mediscare strategy was unveiled.
Complementing this kinder, gentler Mitt for the first half of the address was a sorrowful take on the last three-and-a-half years. This section was short on red meat; call it the turkey burger critique of the Obama presidency. Romney here cannily connected with pragmatic undecideds who don’t share Republicans’ hatred of the president, but are less than thrilled with the results on the ground.
Luckily for Romney, the least effective moments of the speech were delivered well past the 11 p.m. (for that he owes Clint Eastwood thanks), when Romney morphed from cuddly family man who so wanted the Obama thing to succeed into a generic Republican blowhard. There was nothing in the final kick of the speech that couldn’t have been uttered in 1996, or 1986, for that matter. He offered a substance-free five-point plan, the contents of which I can’t even recall at the moment. What I do recall is that Romney mentioned Israel, Iran, and Russia — but not Afghanistan or Iraq.
There was a something-less-than passionate defense of his years at Bain Capital; he loves to mention the venture capital side of the business (Sports Authority, Staples), but unfailingly avoids mention of leveraged buyouts, bankruptcy restructuring, and the like. Romney doesn’t defend Bain so much as he defends the platonic ideal of “success.”
Success, this election season, is next to godliness — and Obama is the Great Satan.
Tonight, Mitt Romney and his staff concluded that he doesn’t need to be Jesus.
He’s one of the disciples you can’t remember.
And that may be good enough.