This week the Republican Party will nominate their candidate for President of the United States, Mitt Romney. And when Romney takes the podium Thursday night to accept his party's nomination he will be delivering the most important speech of his life.
The Republican presidential primary campaign was brutal, as candidates fought hard for the approval of their party's largely conservative base. Mitt Romney had to defend his previous moderate leaning tendencies, and his authorship of "Romneycare," the blueprint for President Barack Obama's universal health care legislation. To do so, Romney aggressively attacked his opponents with negative ads, spent a ton of money, and Etch A Sketched some of his political positions in order to appeal to the GOP right.
Although Romney won the presumptive nomination, many Americans are uncertain about who he is. This Thursday night Romney will be introducing himself to America, while, at the same time, he will have to reassure his conservative party base that he can beat President Obama, and he can be trusted not to change his positions on taxes and social issues.
Romney's speech writing team has been hard a work trying to find the right balance. On one hand, Romney will try to connect with his audience, something he failed to do very well during the primary campaign. He will try to sound warm and likeable, not stiff and corporate. He will add some biographical details, including a reference to his wife's ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis. But also look for Romney to make the case the he should be elected president. Here he will emphasize his successes as a businessman, governor and head of the U.S. Olympics Committee, as examples of how he can lead.
For sure, there will be plenty of quotable one-liners to stir delegates on the convention floor and appeal to the home audience. Here's one you won't hear: "Watch my lips, no new taxes!" Here's one you will hear: "President Obama is the only president to cut Medicare." Of course, the president didn't cut Medicare -- but why let the facts get in the way of a good applause line.
Romney's speech will not be truly successful if he simply attacks President Obama's record. He will need to offer independent voters more than the usual talking points: "Cut taxes, cut regulations and become totally energy independent." Nor can he just simply say, "I have a 59 point plan to save the economy -- it's on my website."
Of course, the devil is always in the details, and Romney's economic plan simply does not add up. For instance, how can he significantly cut taxes (which mostly benefits the wealthy) and increase defense spending, yet still balance the budget? It's not possible unless he also massively cuts entitlement programs -- like Medicare and Medicaid. (Enter Representative Paul Ryan?) So, Mr. Romney, specifically what government programs will you cut to balance the budget? You owe Americans an explanation.
Why will cutting taxes create jobs? The "Bush Tax Cuts" have been in place for a decade, but they have had little impact on the job market, while making the rich even richer. As part of his tax plan, Romney proposes eliminating tax loopholes, yet he has offered no specifics. Does he mean offshore tax havens (I don't think so)? Does he mean home mortgages or charity? Details Mr. Romney, details.
Of course, Mr. Romney will promise in his speech to end "Obamacare" to the delight of the floor delegates. Ironically, he crafted a universal health care law that passed in Massachusetts and relies on an individual mandate, the same one he opposes now. Mr. Romney, what is your replacement plan for the 40 million uninsured Americans? How will you close the "doughnut hole" on prescription drugs for more than 5.2 million Medicare beneficiaries who have already saved around $4 billion since Obamacare went into effect?
Romney has promised to eliminate Planned Parenthood if he is elected president. Of course, conservatives hate Planned Parenthood because of its association with birth control and abortion. But Romney is not likely to offer too many details in his speech on abortion, other than, "I believe in the sanctity of life." Part of the problem is that a decade ago Romney was pro-abortion, then later anti-abortion, except in the cases of incest and rape. But the GOP 2012 platform calls for a ban on all abortions, with no exceptions.
Romney is likely to accuse President Obama of campaign distortions and tarnishing the office of the presidency. But Romney has been a leading practitioner of negative and misleading ads, beginning in the primary. For instance, most recently a Romney sponsored ad that says, "The president ended a provision requiring welfare recipients to work." Wrong, but it plays well with blue-collar workers in swing states. Or a Romney "joke" about his birth certificate. Don't look for Mitt Romney to denounce the idiotic "Birther" movement from the dais.
No matter how well Romney performs Thursday -- and he should do very well -- no mater how enthusiastically he is received, no matter how amazing all the production gimmicks are, there are still many questions that will, pardon the expression, always dog Romney. He is, after all, extremely private, very controlling, open to changing his deeply held positions, and incredibly driven to become president.
Imagine: Mitt Romney pauses in his speech Thursday night to look up toward the heavens. At that point he hears the voice of his father, Governor George Romney, once a Republican candidate for president, who says, "Mitt, release twelve years of tax returns!" To which he replies, "You're getting two years, and that's it!"