Going into the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney had one major political mission: to convince swing voters that he isn’t just the guy who fired their brother in law – that he understands their lives and is on their side.
Given his record as Governor of Massachusetts – 47th among the 50 states in job creation – and his history at Bain Capital – Romney can’t really make the case he has any experience creating jobs.
But the thing that really stands between Romney and swing voters is the perception that he has zero empathy – no comprehension of what life is like for everyday Americans.
So the Republicans tried very hard to tell stories that humanized the otherwise robot-like Romney. But here is the bottom line: when multiple speakers have to testify how authentic you are – you’re not.
The first night of the Convention did feature Ann Romney delivering a simple message: you like me, I love Mitt – so he must not be so bad.
But it also featured a cast of Governors doing auditions for 2016 – saying very little about Romney – and a great deal about their own “successes”. When Chris Christi gave the Convention’s Keynote address he didn’t even mention Romney until the very end of his speech.
Night two featured Paul Ryan whipping up the right wing base and delivering brazen lies about the Obama record. Ryan’s speech was a feast for fact checkers. From his assertion that Obama failed to prevent the shutdown of the GM plant at Janesville – which was closed before Obama took office – to his attack on the Obama for failing to take seriously recommendations from the Debt Commission which he himself voted to oppose.
Most egregious was Ryan’s claim that ObamaCare “cut” Medicare by over $700 billion. In fact, of course, far from “cutting” Medicare benefits, ObamaCare actually improved Medicare benefits and achieved $700 billion of savings for the Medicare program by cutting huge overpayments and subsidies to big insurance companies. Not one Medicare recipient has had his or her guaranteed benefits cut by ObamaCare – and Ryan knows it.
Of course, all the while Ryan was lying about the fake “ObamaCare” cuts in Medicare, he and Romney are planning to eliminate Medicare. They have made clear they want to replace it with a voucher program that would provide a fixed amount of money per person and require that seniors shop for coverage on the private insurance market. Their plan will raise out of pocket costs by $6,400 and eliminate the guaranteed benefit that defines Medicare and has meant that American retirees haven’t had to worry about their health care costs for over half a century.
The final night of the Convention, the Republicans made a concerted effort to “humanize” Mitt Romney. They put up a string of former friends and associates to tell stories aimed at trying to make him seem more caring and human.
Then, Bob White, the Chairman of Romney for President, and former Partner in Bain Capital talked about his business experience. White told the story of how Romney was asked to come back from Bain Capital and return to Bain Consulting to save it from collapse. Of course White ignored the fact that, as a new article in Rolling Stone indicates, he achieved that recovery through a federal bailout.
The essential role of the government, by the way, is a consistent, though never mentioned, theme that continued when it came to Romney’s “turn around” of the Salt Lake Olympics that receive a larger federal subsidy — $1.3 billion – than all of the previous Olympics combined.
Then came Tom Stemberg, the CEO of Staples, that had been funded by Bain Capital who argued – in one of the stiffest, least “everyman” speeches ever – that when the Obama campaign contends that Romney is out of touch with ordinary people, “they just don’t get it”. In fact, Tom led the assembled delegates in the chant: “they just don’t get it”. Multi-millionaire Tom Stemberg is a strange choice to serve as cheerleader for how Mitt Romney understands ordinary people.
Ray Fernandez, the owner of Vita Pharmacy, who told everyone how important Bain Capital was in creating his business, followed Stemberg. By this time the Convention was beginning to sound like a business development seminar.
Then came Kerry Healey, Romney’s former Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, to tell us about Mitt’s Massachusetts record. No mention of the three quarters of a trillion dollar increase in fees on everyday people. No mention of the fact that on his watch Massachusetts was 47th out of the 50 states in job creation. No mention of RomneyCare. No mention that his policies increased student class sizes, or that when he left office, Massachusetts had the highest debt per capita in America.
Next was Jane Edmonds, Romney’s former Massachusetts Director of Workforce Development, who testified to Romney’s “authenticity”. Edmonds went on to argue that Mitt believed in promoting women – particularly to “senior” positions. No mention of his refusal to endorse laws that would require equal pay for equal work.
Edmonds tried to convince us that Romney was not one of those leaders who “focused only on his own success” – but rather would work hard – selflessly — to make life better for other people. Now there is a tough sell.
Then came Olympic athletes to testify about how Romney turned around the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Forgot to mention those Federal subsidies.
There were videos and home movies. Romney saying that when he traveled a lot, he would call home and find Anne exasperated from five active little boys. Caring guy, he told Anne: “Just remember that what you’re doing is more important than what I’m doing.” Really?
After the videos, we were treated to a “surprise” guest — Clint Eastwood — who argued that the Obama Administration failed to do “enough” to eliminate unemployment. Clint forgot about the fact that when Obama first took office, he confronted the worst economic disaster in 60 years. He forgot that Obama staunched the loss of 750,000 jobs per month that had resulted from the failed trickle down policies of the Bush Administration and that Mitt Romney hopes to revive. He forgot about the last 29 consecutive months of private sector job growth — over 4 million jobs – and, most importantly, forgot that the Republicans in Congress have done everything they can to sabotage the economy including refusing to pass the American Jobs Act that independent economists say would have created another million plus jobs.
Then Eastwood rambled through a bazar, awkward dialogue with a faux Obama during the first fifteen minutes of live primetime network Convention coverage. His presentation will be the most talked about event of the convention. And the Republican Party put out a statement distancing itself from Eastwood’s strange presentation just minutes after the Convention adjourned.
When Eastwood finally withdrew, Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced Romney recanting stale rightwing bromides – whipping up the Republican hard core. Never a mention of the need for immigration reform, or the fact the Mitt Romney vowed to veto the Dream Act, and is the most anti-immigration candidate for President that of a major party in modern history.
Finally, came Romney – stiff and awkward as ever. Touting his record at Bain as a “great American success story”. Once again he blamed Obama for presiding over the “worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.” Let’s remember that the policies that he and Paul Ryan want to reinstall in Washington – tax cuts for the rich and letting Wall Street run wild – caused this economic catastrophe. Romney reminds you of an arsonist complaining that the fire department hasn’t done a good enough job putting out the fire. And in the course of his speech he never offered one idea to create jobs other than reinstating the failed Bush economic program.
Romney went on to attack the Obama foreign policy – apparently forgetting about his own recent disastrous foreign policy tour.
But most importantly, Romney did nothing to “Etch-a-Sketch” his image of the out of touch, prep school educated, son of a corporate CEO.
At the close of this Convention the most memorable stories that everyday people remember about Mitt Romney the person still have to do with a dog strapped to the roof of his car, or the way that, as an 18 year old, he led a gang of teenagers to bully another student. The most memorable facts about Mitt Romney remain that fact that he “likes to fire people” and did exactly that as CEO of Bain Capital.
Mitt’s convention fell short in its attempt to convince everyday Americans that he understands who they are and how they live and that he’s on their side. That is one of the major reasons, that those ordinary Americans will not elect him President of the United States.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.
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