Considered by many a “rising star” in the Republican party, Senator Marco Rubio’s introduction of Mitt Romney was nothing short of high voltage. Florida’s junior Senator defended his GOP values of small government and free enterprise, with plugs to liberty--this last principle illustrated with personal touches, references to his immigrant Cuban parents, and some phrases in Spanish. Although not quite stealing the show at the 2012 Republican National Convention, he got close and got it back on track after surprise guest Clint Eastwood’s bizarre speech directed to “Invisible Obama”--an empty chair.
Still, the night belonged to the former governor of Massachusetts. Before a jam-packed Tampa Bay Times Forum, Romney accepted the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in November and promised to restore America’s “greatness."
“The President attacks success. In America we celebrate success. We don't apologize for success,” stressed Romney, when he criticized Obama’s presidency, blaming his policies not just for our weak economy, but for what he hinted is a deep sense of insecurity that has tightened its grip on our spirit.
“What American needs is jobs, lots of jobs,” Romney exclaimed to cheers from the die-hard loyalists in the audience. He then outlined a “Five Point Plan” to jump-start the economy, focusing on developing the energy sectors of coal and oil, improving our schools, punishing countries that manipulate their money (a jab at China), cutting the federal deficit to balance the budget, and promoting small business.
On foreign policy, he promised support of our military and accused the President of being “soft” on Iran as well as “throwing Israel under the bus,” even though Obama has followed President Bush’s policy. This last point is just one example of a fierce campaign where accuracy gives way to “red meat,” thrown to fired-up delegates who will go back to their communities and mobilize the vote.
The former governor of Massachusetts, who has been criticized as being “wooden,” wasn’t able to shake that perception. But he balanced it by showing his “human side” when he spoke of his love for wife Ann and their family, his road to becoming a successful businessman, and in a moment that caught many Romney watchers by surprise: he got choked up, his voice cracking when he remembered the love shared by his parents.
As I expected, Romney didn’t mention immigration, except to say “we’re a nation of immigrants.” Any outreach to Latino voters was limited to speeches by Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Florida’s former governor Jeb Bush who is married to Columba, his Mexican-born wife and who has spoken out against the anti-immigrant wing of the GOP, and Romney son Craig who lived in Chile and said a few words in nearly flawless Spanish.
One group the Republican nominee openly and aggressively courted in his acceptance speech are female voters. Romney stopped short of exclaiming, “I love women!” when expressing admiration for his wife, mother, and the GOP women in government. But given the party’s hardline position on abortion--banning it in all cases--will he be able to win over those who are undecided?
I saw 120,000 red, white, and blue balloons float down and flood the auditorium, closing the biggest Republican party of the year. Like all conventions, Mitt Romney is expected to get a big bounce. But with the Democratic National Convention this week and just over two months left before the November election, will he be able to turn that bounce into victory?