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With his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Thursday night, presidential nominee Mitt Romney seemingly checked off all the points he wanted to cover. His goal appeared to be to reintroduce himself to the American people, mix in a heavy dose of wistfulness about the days when the nation had a vibrant middle class, suggest he and Republicans would restore it, and make the case why voters should not re-elect the other guy.
While hardly soaring, the speech was well ordered and delivered. It was not overly nasty in its attacks, vapid perhaps, but not inane. He put to rest, for a night at least, contentions that he is too wooden to deliver a message with any heart. We detected a beat.
While without substance, and effectively dismissing the seriousness of global warming, his suggestion that President Obama is more concerned about grandiose ideas than the problems of average Americans may have scored points with struggling families who want their problems to be the priority.
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," said Mr. Romney, taking a pause to listen to the guffaws in the hall. "My promise is to help you and your family."
The sourest note, and one that is not likely to enamor undecided voters, was some disquieting saber rattling at the end, but more on that later.
Mr. Romney provided some warm and fuzzy with stories of his growing up, raising kids, the support of a wonderful wife and his making it on his own in business. Perhaps in an effort to counter the characterization that he is rich and out of touch, the Republican presidential candidate suggested he is about as middle as you can get.
"I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country, a classic baby boomer. It was a time when Americans were returning from war and eager to work. To be an American was to assume that all things were possible," he told the adoring delegates.
The candidate reminded listeners, often, that he is a successful businessman and that the current occupant of the White House is not, and again suggested that makes him the right person to forge policies that will encourage job growth. The figure he tossed out was 12 million new jobs, which certainly sounds impressive but is not grounded in any policy proposal.
Basically, his argument was that the president has had his chance, but the economic recovery has been too slow, the growth of the deficit too large and voters should not rehire him.
"This president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office," Mr. Romney said.
Left unsaid, of course, was Republican complicity, including the refusal of Republicans in Congress to consider compromising on tax increases in return for budget cuts as a way of reducing deficit spending, their rejection of the president's jobs bill and Republican opposition to most anything President Obama proposed in a cynical effort to deny him policy victories.
Why, however, Mr. Romney thought a war weary nation would welcome his hawkish rhetoric toward the end of the speech is baffling. He expressed a seeming eagerness about the prospects of attacking Iran and accused the current administration, without basis, of "having thrown allies like Israel under the bus." His vow to show "more backbone" in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin harkened to Cold War rhetoric.
One thing Americans are generally satisfied with is President Obama's foreign policy. And something that they would just as soon avoid is more military conflict. While Mr. Romney, for political reasons, probably should have left the saber home, give him credit for letting the public know what kind of aggressive foreign policy he would pursue.