The Race Is On—Romney and Ryan at the RNC
It’s official—on Day 2 and Day 3 of the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan accepted the party’s the nomination as president and vice president, respectively. They also presented themselves to the American people and laid out their visions for the future.
Keeping Up the Offensive
After a video tribute to retiring Texas congressman and Romney challenger Ron Paul, son Senator Rand Paul kept up the offensive against the Democrats. Paul celebrated the American dream with poignant stories of immigrant entrepreneurs who have succeeded. He also described the rationale for the Republican stand on limited government: “The powers of the federal government are few and defined. The power to tax and spend is restricted by the enumerated powers.”
Mike Huckabee, Fox News host and 2008 Romney rival, showed how the current administration has united the right: “No small differences among us in our party approximate the vast differences between the liberty-limiting, radical left-wing, anti-business, reckless-spending, tax-hiking party of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.”
A New Speed of Government
Several speakers had been suggested as potential Romney running mates. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio contrasted Romney’s business success with four years of 8 percent or higher unemployment and continuing economic troubles. “In business, if you don’t move rapidly, you are out of business. You are finished . . . . We want a president who operates at business speed not government speed.”
Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty unleashed several zingers at the president and rounded out his speech with a glowing endorsement “Mitt Romney knows what our problems are, and he has the tools, the experience, the energy, and the right polices to fix them.”
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a former Democrat and the nation’s first female Hispanic governor, spoke vividly about her parents’ entrepreneurship, her change of political affiliation, and her perhaps surprising connection to Romney. “In many ways Mitt Romney and I are very different. Different starts in life. Different paths to leadership. Different cultures. But we’ve each shared in the promise of America, and we share a core belief that the promise of America must be kept for the next generation.”
McCain and Rice on Foreign Policy
Foreign policy under the Obama administration was the focus of two of Wednesday’s most eloquent speakers. Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican nominee John McCain noted that over the past four years, the nation has “drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership—traditions that are truly bipartisan . . . . we can’t afford to abandon the cause of human freedom.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged many Americans’ weariness with costly engagements abroad, but issued a stark warning: “If we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen—no one will lead and that will foster chaos—or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead—and one cannot lead from behind.”
Rice also spoke about domestic issues such as immigration and education. “The crisis in K–12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are,” she said. Identifying minority students as particularly hurt by poor neighborhood schools, she added, “This is the civil rights issue of our day.”
Ryan Accepts the Nomination
Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd, Paul Ryan told Wednesday’s audience that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are “out of ideas. . . . Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
Ryan painted a dismal picture of a second Obama administration: “Right now, 23 million men and women are struggling to find work. Twenty-three million people, unemployed or underemployed. Nearly one in six Americans is living in poverty. . . . So here’s the question: Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?”
Hitting the Republican themes of a failed administration and a growing fiscal crisis, Ryan called the 2009 stimulus package “a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst.”
On the subject of the president’s healthcare reform laws, Ryan asserted that “the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.” Following Romney’s lead, Ryan, too, vowed to repeal the president’s healthcare law and save Medicare.
My Friend Mitt
Thursday’s speakers offered a variety of testimonials to Mitt Romney. A fellow Mormon testified to the candidate’s faith, compassion, and good works. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pushed the importance of education and called Romney the man to fix the nation’s schools. Backed by an array of fellow medal winners, three former Olympians spoke of their admiration and respect for Romney. Mike Eruzione of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team said that Romney rescued the Olympic Games by putting “Olympians and the ideals of the Olympics back at the center of the Games.”
Perhaps the most unusual event at the convention was actor Clint Eastwood’s “conversation” with an empty chair representing President Obama. The surprise appearance left viewers baffled. Even Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell confessed to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that the “shtick” with the chair “may not have worked too well.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced the presidential candidate, insisting that the campaign against the president is not personal: “Our problem with President Obama isn’t that he’s a bad person. By all accounts, he, too, is a good husband, and a good father. . . . Our problem is he’s a bad president.” Echoing Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, Rubio noted “Hope and Change has become Divide and Conquer.”
Romney Accepts the Nomination
Following Rubio’s introduction, Romney entered the arena from the back, shaking hands as he moved confidently to the podium. Interrupted by frequent applause and chants of “USA, USA, USA,” Romney delivered a speech that spoke of the past and the future, his background, and his ideas.
Romney paid tribute to his parents and his wife and touted his record in hiring and advancing women in business and government. He spoke of the importance of family and community and the need to take risks to succeed in business. He decried the president’s inability to understand the importance of entrepreneurship and said, “It’s the genius of the American free enterprise system—to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that is dedicated to creating tomorrow’s prosperity rather than trying to redistribute today’s.”
“What America needs is jobs,” Romney said, before outlining his five-step plan of job creation that included energy independence, improved education, stronger trade policy, a balanced federal budget, and the growth of small business.
Romney closed by pledging, “If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight.”
The Race Begins in Earnest
After the convention, Romney and Ryan hit the campaign trail in earnest. By the end of August, Romney had raised at least $100 million, exceeding the president’s fund-raising efforts for the third month in a row. In addition, several hundred million dollars in campaign funds have now become available to Romney as the official nominee.
Several post-convention polls—Rasmussen, Ipsos, and Gallup, to name three—show only a modest bump in popularity for Romney. The race is tight and with two months of campaigning to go, it will probably come down to a photo finish.
Take what you’ve just read into the classroom. Ask students:
- Why do you think the Romney campaign invited speakers who were among those not selected as Romney’s running mates?
- Do you think testimonials from non-politicians are effective? Why or why not?
- Using one of the quotes above, describe how the speaker’s words affect the emotions.