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Romney Stands By Gaffe

Confidant Romney Hits The Campaign Trail After Mixed Response To Convention Speech
2012-08-31 15:31:21 (208 weeks ago)
Posted By: Intellpuke
Mitt Romney's election team has declared they are confident that the road to the White House lies open as their candidate headed out on his first full day of campaigning as the Republican presidential nominee.

His schedule took in a surprise visit to Louisiana to speak to – and be pictured with – the emergency crews dealing with the flood damage created by hurricane Isaac.

Reaction to the biggest speech of his political career – his address to the party convention in Tampa, Florida – was mixed, in large part because of a shambling warm-up performance by Oscar-winning actor Clint Eastwood. The actor disrupted the carefully choreographed convention schedule with with a surreal discussion with an empty chair representing Barack Obama.

Republican strategists described Romney's 40-minute speech as "competent" and "solid" rather than inspirational, but insisted that it would play well with the tens of millions of viewers watching at home. Alex Castellanos, a Republican consultant and media commentator, said Romney had ticked all the boxes. "I thought he did a workmanlike job," he said.

A former member of the Bush administration, speaking after the speech in Tampa, described it as "homely" and low-key but said it would resonate with voters tired with Obama's soaring rhetoric.

(story continues below)

Romney heeded the advice of his strategists to make the speech personal, with sections in which he dwelt on his family life. His wife Ann, on television Friday morning, said it offered a glimpse into "the deepest part of his soul".

She diplomatically avoided any hint of criticism of Eastwood's performance, confining her comment to "unique". In an interview with CBS, she tactfully added: "We appreciated Clint's support, of course."

In his speech, Romney spoke about two of his biggest perceived weaknesses, his Mormonism, which is normally avoids for fear of offending Christian evangelicals, and his business career at Bain Capital, an investment group that closed American companies, resulting in job losses.

But there was little of substance in the speech, other than a vague five-point plan for tackling the sluggish economic recovery and a few brief foreign policy references.

A senior member of Romney's campaign team, scanning the coming two months, insisted it was looking good for the candidate. He pointed to the unemployment figures coming out next week, again in October and again just days before the election, which would remind voters of the issue that is their main concern. He said that it would take a "miracle" for Obama to win, given that no president since the 1930s had won re-election with unemployment over 8%.

The campaign adviser also saw a huge advantage for Romney in terms of spending. Having been formally adopted as the Republican nominee, he can now legally spend the millions of dollars he has been accumulating.

Romney's campaign team cautioned against expecting much of a poll bounce, especially with the Democrats likely to be the center of media attention next week, with their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Democratic party derided Romney's speech for lack of policy. In a campaign video on the web, the Democrats said: "Thursday was Mitt Romney's big night to tell America his plans for moving forward, yet he chose not to."

David Axelrod, one of Obama's campaign strategists, in a television interview focused on Republicans who made speeches mainly talking up themselves rather than Romney. He contemptuously dismissed Tampa as "more like open mic night for 2016 candidates, and not a convention that's aimed at promoting Mitt Romney in 2012."

The media response to the speech was mixed. Time's Joe Klein wrote that it was a "smart speech" but that he was not sure that it was a game-changer, or would be remembered beyond tomorrow. Klein added: "But it did lay down a subtle challenge for the president: explain why your contract should be extended."

The main theme of Romney's speech, one that will be pursued over the coming weeks by the campaign, is that Obama was elected in a wave of euphoria but that his first term is ending in disappointment.

"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed," Romney said. "But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help we will do something."

The heart of Romney's speech was a five-point plan for economic recovery that he promised would deliver 12 million new jobs within four years. The plan – deliberately lacking in detail – covered energy independence, small business, deficit reduction, skills training and international trade, and included the veiled threat of a trade war with China.

Romney touched on foreign policy only briefly, pledging to show "backbone" to Russian president Vladimir Putin and deriding Obama for failing to halt Iran's nuclear development. While he praised President Obama for ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, there was no mention of other international issues, notably Afghanistan, and in the main he focused on attacking Obama's domestic record.

He promised to repeal President Obama's health-care reform and vowed: "As president I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America's first liberty: the freedom of religion."

Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Washington Bureau Chief Ewen MacAskill, reporting from Tampa, Florida, in context here:

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