Romney must play the numbers game to woo Uncle Sam
Mitt Romney made a fleeting, almost spectral, appearance on the convention floor last night. He was there to thank his wife Ann who gave the kind of endorsement of her husband that is typical of first wives hoping to become First Ladies.
So there was Mitt. From the rafters and the floor they shouted his name as if their life, or at least election, depended on it. Willard Mitt Romney was showered with love and adulation.
I was standing right in front of the convention’s equivalent of the Royal Box. Mitt sat between his wife and the former Secretary of State Condi Rice -a human prop by dint of being black and female. She looked profoundly bored and he looked as uncomfortable as a schoolboy on the naughty bench. He winced and squirmed and smirked and smiled as forcibly as a Cheshire Cat after a face lift. Mitt may never look comfortable in his own skin. He still walks in small steps as if he is desperately trying to stave off an imminent bathroom accident.
He remains as awkward as Al Gore on the stump but none of that may stop him from becoming the next president. You heard me. President Romney. Prepare to get used to it. Just as America was ready for a change in 2008, it is ready for change once again. After four years of unrelenting mediocrity and waning hope that is hardly surprising. Uncle Sam has been considering divorce from Barack Obama for some time. But he is not yet ready to elope with Mitt Romney. Last night’s two speakers were meant to address that problem and I detect a winning strategy.
Ann Romney, in blinding red, almost pleaded with the audience to consider their family ordinary behind the Cayman Islands tax arrangements, the racehorses and the $250 million nest egg. She told us how they used to eat pasta and tuna and live in a cramped apartment when they first met. America never doubted that they didn’t start married life in a mansion. It never resented their wealth. It just doesn’t like the idea that the Romneys are gaming an unfair advantage. Ann Romney with her five sons and her MS sounded much more “real” last night than the extra terrestrial Cindy McCain or even the fragrant Laura Bush. Even if the words were written by the campaign committee, the tone sounded right. Let’s see if Mitt can fill in the blanks tomorrow.
Then there was the gargantuan girth of Governor Chris Christie. He looks and sounds like Tony Soprano plus 200 pounds. Christie is unapologetically fat. He could accommodate all the Romney children and grand children in one pair of his pants. Ann Romney told us that her speech was all about love. Sweating and heaving, the governor of New Jersey, America’s version of Essex, told us that his speech was all about respect. Or else. And he wasn’t just talking about the world’s respect for America, but America’s respect for itself.
“I don’t want my grand children to read about the American century in the history books… I want this to be the American century too…” he said. How this would be achieved he didn’t mention. The tone was robust but less shrill and hectoring than Sarah Palin’s pit bull diatribe four years ago at the GOP convention. These speeches are astonishingly devoid of policy detail. It is all about emotion, mood and morale. Like one of those pep talks given by the coach at half time in the locker room which ends up with the players forming a circle, holding hands and praying. Every American election is like a ritual reaffirmation of the American Dream to a nation of weary dreamers. It is a smack down of competing visions of greatness that is both heartfelt and staged like one of those fights in the World Wrestling Federation. Chris Christie and Ann Romney played good cop bad cop last night and if Mitt can find his human voice tomorrow he may be one step closer to the White House. Most of it, however, is up to the economy. In essence the last election was about words. This one comes down to cold hard numbers.
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