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September 3, 2012

Opposition Characterization and Actuality

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

So, it was party time in Tampa Bay, Republican-style. Hurricanes and tropical storms aside, it was a beauty pageant week for the GOP. Well, considering the amalgamation of stupid hats and garish outfits, maybe beauty pageant isn't the best description.


It was the week the American people – read voters – were introduced to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. If you lived under a rock for the last year, excuse the presumption that most people knew something about the handsome, successful and committed former governor and successful business executive.


Most of what we know about him came to us courtesy of the Barack Obama presidential re-election campaign. As far as they're concerned, Mr. Romney is a fraud, a felon and a murderer.


Sounds harsh, right? Just look at their advertisements, or those from the Obama-aligned Super PAC. The first ads claimed that Mr. Romney was not who he claimed to be. The focus of those first ads was that Mitt Romney was a feckless opportunist, a man of zero political convictions who would say anything to win office.


That first round of ads was also accompanied by the hint by David Axelrod, the Obama campaign chair and well-known Chicago political knee-capper, that Mitt Romney was "weird." No political operative says anything that does not tie back to the campaign. Using the word "weird" was intended as a reference to Romney's strong Mormon faith; no other explanation meets the sniff test.


The next round of ads opined that far from being the compassionate man-of-faith he represented, Mr. Romney was a wealthy tycoon secretly stashing money in offshore bank accounts. Coupled with his apparent unwillingness to produce tax returns, President Obama's campaign advisor Stephanie Cutter hinted that Mr. Romney might even be a felon.


Finally, and most pathetically, the Obama-aligned Super PAC ran an ad featuring Joe Skopic, a Pennsylvania worker who lost his job when Bain Capital, the private equity company founded by Mitt Romney, took over the operation.


Mr. Skopic tells a sad story of how the company was subjected to personnel reductions to enhance its survivability. His own job was downsized, and he lost his health insurance. His wife was dying of cancer, and the clear inference was that Romney's actions resulted in Mr. Skopic's wife's death.


Like most political commercials, there is no filter for truthfulness other than the viewer's own skepticism. Regarding the Skopic story, Mitt Romney was no longer associated with Bain when the company acquired Mr. Skopic's employer. The conclusion of this story as it relates to Mitt Romney was a complete and total fabrication.


So, back to Tampa Bay, and the stupid-hat-filled hockey arena. The whole focus of the convention was to reframe Mr. Romney's image, without regard to the Obama campaign’s earlier attempts to do so.


Thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac, the party has three days, not four, in which to pull this off. No sweat, three days of political speeches is more than enough.


The five most anticipated podium performances, in order of importance, were:


·        Marco Rubio's speech just prior to Governor Romney's acceptance of his party's nomination. Senator Rubio is sort of the great brown hope of the GOP, a Latino from South Florida, beloved by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Seems like an oxymoron, right? At least the liberal bias of the major media would have you believe that, anyway. Truth be told, there are plenty of conservative Latino voters out there.


·        New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote speech. The big, bold and brash northeastern governor is the future of the GOP. He also happens to be an anachronism, a politician who does exactly what he says he's going to do. Given his penchant for taking on tough fights like the education and public worker unions, giving this guy a prime time speaking role is like giving Yosemite Sam a torch to light the dynamite shack.


·        Rep. Paul Ryan's vice presidential acceptance speech. If Christie is the future, then Paul Ryan is the conservative present. For millions of GOP voters, whose emotions for the Romney nomination were best described as lukewarm, Paul Ryan raises the temperature to boiling. An admitted policy wonk, Mr. Ryan's encyclopedic grasp of the federal budget and bureaucracy allows him to elevate the dialogue above mere partisan rhetoric. He can credibly debate entitlement reform, because unlike pretty much anyone else, he understands the horrifying impact of simply ignoring the problem.


·        Ann Romney's speech. Mrs. Romney is oft-described as the secret weapon in the campaign. She seems to be the one factor that truly enhances her husband and lifts his spirits in the grueling battle to become president. Aides and reporters all comment on how much better Mitt is as a candidate when Ann is around. That was never more true than during her personal speech to the nation during the convention. She is charming, direct and has an amazing personal story. As she told it, she dramatically improved her hubby's chance of being elected.


·        Governor Romney's acceptance speech. As in past election cycles, what he said on Thursday night (August 30) helped define November's electoral outcome. In spite of his being one of the most-qualified candidates to ever seek the presidency, Mitt Romney just has not caught on with most voters. If he can make his message a personal appeal, if he can comfortably discuss family, faith and policy positions in a way strangers can connect with, he can then easily tie in his obvious and indisputable qualifications.


Next week, we'll look at the reaction to the GOP Convention speeches and discuss the Democratic Convention.


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