Romney urges voters to abandon affection for Obama
TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney pledged Thursday to deliver a strong and prosperous America as president, portraying the alternative as a bleak, debt-ridden future under Barack Obama.
"I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed," Romney said, accepting the Republican nomination for president. "The time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us."
He promised lower taxes, repeal of Obama’s signature health-care plan, 12 million new jobs and sharp reductions in red ink. He laced his 40-minute speech with reasons to set aside any lingering affection for Obama, offering himself as a more capable steward to delegates who seemed more determined than ecstatic.
"He had no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government. I learned the real lesson about how America works from experience," Romney said.
With 69 days left to Election Day, this wasn’t a make-or-break moment for Romney. But it was his best opportunity to present a vision for a thriving economy, in a country where entrepreneurs are lionized, and to shape public opinion on his own character and agenda.
Democrats viewed the speech and the attending festivities in Tampa as an "Etch-a-Sketch" attempt, invoking the image conjured by a Romney strategist in March. They weren’t ready to let him rewrite his image without a fight.
"When Romney ran for governor, he promised the same things that he’s promising now — more jobs, lower taxes and less debt. Romney broke each and every one of his promises to the people of Massachusetts, and he’d do the same thing as president," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic Party chairwoman. "As a corporate buyout specialist, Romney knows only one thing — how to make a profit for himself and his investors."
Romney’s speech was a blend of soaring prose and dire warnings, as he painted a bleak picture of life under Obama.
Thursday’s convention program included testimonials to Romney’s business acumen, from the founder of Staples and owners of other Bain success stories. And it broke ground by highlighting Romney’s pastoral role in his church, an affiliation that nearly derailed his campaign four years ago, betting that this would expose a warmth he often lacks on the stump.
"I think it’s maybe time for a businessman," actor Clint Eastwood said in an offbeat warm-up act for Romney. "When somebody does not do the job, you’ve got to let him go."
Democrats get a chance at rebuttal next week at their convention in Charlotte, N.C. It’s a safe bet they’ll showcase workers who lost pensions and jobs as the result of Bain’s less successful ventures.
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family," Romney said, drawing cheers from GOP delegates.
Much of the convention was aimed at weaning Americans from the affection that drew them four years ago to Obama, an inspirational, post-racial, history-making figure.
More than merely driving voters to ponder whether they’re better off now, Republicans have harped on disappointment and buyers’ remorse — a tack that sidesteps the case that Obama hasn’t failed, he just needs more time.
That was the subtext Wednesday night when former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty likened Obama to a tattoo one regrets having gotten. And of Ryan’s quip that "college graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life."
Romney hammered that meme, too.
"‘Hope and Change’ had a powerful appeal," he said. "But … if you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?"
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a tea party darling and the GOP’s highest-profile Hispanic, introduced Romney as someone who "understands what makes America exceptional." As for Obama, he said, "Our problem is not that he’s a bad person. Our problem is that he’s a bad president."
The nominee himself also hit Obama hard.
"To the majority of Americans who now believe that the future will not be better than the past, I can guarantee you this: If Barack Obama is re-elected, you will be right," he said.
Romney has at times struggled to connect with voters. Polls show that more voters trust him than Obama to guide the economy, but Obama projects more empathy and a better capacity to relate to ordinary people.
On the Republican side, there’s now little question of unity. But Romney still needs to gin up as much enthusiasm as possible among tea party activists and other conservatives who resisted him during the primaries..
"I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour," he said.
Romney, boiling down a 57-point economic plan, offered five highlights that he said would create 12 million jobs. He promised energy independence by 2020, better schools, new trade deals, smaller deficits and lower taxes on businesses. Some of the details remain sketchy.