THIS IS HOW ROMNEY CAMPAIGNS IN POETRY?
The Romney campaign promised us that the speech Mitt gave last night was going to be the real kickoff to the fall campaign. It's clear that the campaign recognizes that a candidate for president ought to be for something, rather than just incessantly negative about his opponent; it's clear that the campaign grasps the notion that Romney has to offer some sort of "vision thing."
So, yes, there was some misty, soft-focus stuff in Romney's speech, or at least as close an approximation as a speech team drawn from a party of rage junkies could muster ("I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents -- some successful even beyond their wildest dreams -- and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it").
But at this moment when Romney needs to show that he has a sunny, optimistic vision of a possible of America -- a task accomplished even, to some extent, by Nixon in '68 ("Bring Us Together") and Poppy Bush in '88 ("a thousand points of light") -- what's the line the Romney campaign has sold to the press as the keeper, the takeaway line, the money shot from last night?
Business Insider tells us:
... one line seems to pretty much sum up the campaign's message going forward:
"It's still about the economy ... and we're not stupid."
Really, Mitt? That's what you want as a meme from last night?
Clearly it is, because the various journalist-whisperers in the Romney campaign have gotten that line into headlines from Politico, UPI, the L.A. Times, National Review Online, BuzzFeed, even the Daily Mail in Britain.
It's an angry line. It's a smart-alecky, cocky, snarly, contemptuous line from a guy who thinks he's better than you, unless you agree with him.
But that was the tone of most of Romney's speech -- oh, sure, he occasionally stared off into the horizon and seemed, more or less, to see America as a shining city on a hill, but mostly he delivered the speech in the superior tone of a talk radio host or a CEO who feels his authority isn't being adequately respected:
This works if you're on the guy's side and you feel he's being contemptuous on your behalf -- and in this economy, the number of people who feel that way may be large. But I just don't think it's the tone you use if you really want to persuade the unpersuaded.
AND: Another point I meant to make was: How familiar is "the economy stupid" to the broad general public anyway? Yes, the line poste4d on the wall at Clinton headquarters in 1992 became well known to a fair number of Americans, but it's not like a line from a blockbuster movie -- a lot of people just don't pay that much attention to politics. Plus it was a long time ago -- there are first-time voters this year who weren't alive in '92. That plus the Romney's speech's shout-out to the Greatest Generation suggests that the campaign is all but writing off voters under 35. (The Greatest Generation? Seriously? You're going to sweep to victory on the octogenarian vote, Mitt?)