In an energetically delivered but cautiously composed speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, a fired up Mitt Romney tried to cast himself as a competent executive ready to lead a country that he suggested had been let down by the pie-in-the-sky promises of President Barack Obama.
In officially accepting the Republican Party's presidential nomination, Romney told the Tampa audience that four years ago, Americans felt a "fresh excitement" about Obama.
"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 as president when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him." The crowd laughed and cheered.
Romney spoke at some length about his career as CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital, calling the company he founded a "great American success story," citing companies like Staples and Sports Authority—which Bain invested in—as proof of his economic chops.
Of course, the 65-year-old's critics have long insisted that thousands of middle-class workers were laid off by companies that Bain invested in. Others have noted that Bain invested in companies that outsourced jobs. Even Romney's fellow Republicans have slammed Bain. During the fiercely fought primaries, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused Romney of "vulture capitalism," and Newt Gingrich ripped Bain for "looting" companies.
Romney also laid out a five-step plan to create 12 million jobs in his first term—an optimistic projection for which he offered little in the way of details. To reach that 12-million figure, Romney said he would make North America energy independent, train citizens with key skills to help them get hired, forge new trade agreements, cut the deficit and balance the budget, and reduce taxes on small businesses. It was not immediately clear how Romney would accomplish these goals, or how exactly they would translate into 12 million new jobs.
“I am running for president to help create a better future," Romney said. "A future where everyone who wants a job can find one. Where no senior fears for the security of their retirement."
Romney also made a direct appeal to women. (For months, Democrats have vocally insisted that Romney and his party are declaring a war on women—who make up more than half of the electorate.) Romney boasted that while he served as Massachusetts governor, he surrounded himself with a diverse staff, including a female lieutenant governor, chief of staff, and several cabinet members.
And he spoke about his mother's failed run for Senate in 1970, recalling: "I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, 'Why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?'"
In an appeal to strict social conservatives, Romney promised to "protect the sanctity of life" and "honor the institution of marriage."
The GOP nominee also spent several minutes opening up about his family, tickling the crowd with anecdotes about raising five children, the love between his mother and father—during which he appeared to get misty-eyed—and how his wife Ann was the glue that has long held the Romney family together.
Romney also discussed how his Mormon faith shaped his life—a subject that he has previously shied away from. Despite some evangelicals' wariness about Mormonism, several strategists have long urged Romney to open up about his faith—partly as a way to help humanize him in the face of a long-standing caricature that he is robotic and out of touch.
"Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church," Romney said. "When we were new to the community it was welcoming and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church. We had remarkably vibrant and diverse congregations from all walks of life and many who were new to America. We prayed together, our kids played together and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways."
Romney also offered a slashing, neoconservative-like attack on President Obama's foreign policy, arguing that while the president succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden, he has failed to reduce Iran's nuclear threat, thrown allies like Israel under the bus, turned his back on Poland on missile defense, and kowtowed to Russia.
What does America need? Romney asked. To "put the disappointment of the last four years behind us."