Romney calls for restoring 'promise of America,' unleashing economy and creating 12 million jobs
TAMPA – Committing to restore "the promise of America," Mitt Romney called on Americans Thursday to "put the disappointments of the last four years behind us” and "unleash an economy that will put Americans back to work."
At an age when many people retire, Romney, 65, pledged in his GOP acceptance speech to "work with all my energy and soul to restore" America. He aims to pursue a plan to create 12 million jobs through energy, trade, job training and small business progams.
As a waterfall of red, white and blue balloons was unleashed to celebrate Romney's nomination at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Romney campaign was uncorking a new phase with more than 250 "watch parties" in Missouri and more than a dozen other key states.
Romney, at the GOP convention, told Americans about his family, faith and career, and sought to portray his success as a business consultant as a template for his mission to turn around a troubled America.
Rather than try to match President Barack Obama's high aims "to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet," Romney conceded that his mission is more modest but achievable: "My promise is to help you and your family."
Instead of the frontal attack on Obama made by his running mate, Paul Ryan, Romney expressed disappointment that the president has not achieved what he set out to accomplish. He called on Americans to "put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations. To forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be."
“Now is the time to restore the Promise of America,” Romney said. “What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn't take a special government commission to tell us what America needs. What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.”
Romney's speech came after an appearance by "mystery guest" Clint Eastwood, who grilled an empty chair that represented Obama. Eastwood's talk prompted intense discussion online, from fans and detractors, but it clearly made the convention delegates' day.
While Romney gave his speech, local Republicans gathered at a Chesterfield pub and grill and at several other “Romney Victory” sites across the state to hear their candidate’s message and gin up excitement and support for what the party bills as the "Comeback Team” of Romney and Ryan. That was part of a coordinated plan in 13 states, officials said.
Missouri, even though it went for GOP candidate Sen. John McCain in 2008 and is generally regarded as a likely red state in this year’s presidential vote, is not being taken for granted by Republicans. That’s partly because of the ongoing controversy over U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remarks and his defiant refusal to bow out of the U.S. Senate race.
“Please don’t allow Missouri to become a battleground state,” Romney’s top campaign lawyer, Ben Ginsburg, told Missouri delegates Thursday, adding that it was “an important state for us.”
Also appealing to the state’s delegates and alternates to energize the Romney campaign back home was former Republican Party chairman and Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson, who said, “I don’t think we can take Missouri for granted.”
And former RNC chair and Virginia governor Jim Gilmore – obliquely referring to the Akin controversy by joking that “nothing controversial ever happens in Missouri,” told the delegates this week: “We have to have Missouri to win this election. If Missouri goes for Obama, we are done.”
Missouri's GOP leaders pledge to work hard for ticket
In their sessions in Tampa, Missouri delegates were generally upbeat about the impression made by the Romney-Ryan ticket, the potential for “bounce” from the convention, and the prospects for the GOP ticket in the Show Me state.
“I’m telling you, people are energized. They’re excited about what’s going on here in Tampa, they’re going to go back to Missouri and redouble their efforts to elect Republicans across the state,” state Auditor Tom Schweich said in an interview Thursday.
What can the party do to guarantee a Romney-Ryan victory in November? Schweich said, “We need to do what Republicans do best, which is work harder than the other side. We’ve got a great candidate, a great ticket … and we have to make sure that we work harder than Democrats.”
While the polling trends in Missouri for the national GOP ticket have been positive, some fear that the Akin controversy, if it continues and is exploited by Democrats, might lead the state’s independent women voters to trend more Democratic.
“It’s obviously a concern,” said former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway of Ladue, who is the state’s RNC national committeewoman. While she is confident that the Romney-Ryan ticket will do well in the state, Hannaway said in an interview on the convention floor in Tampa that “you can never take Missouri for granted,” mainly because its voters have proved to be fiercely independent over the years.
Missouri GOP chairman David Cole and executive director Lloyd Smith contend that the party will do well in November, in part because of the excitement generated by the choice of Ryan as running mate, the well-received speech of Ann Romney that personalized the couple, and Romney’s own speech.
Cole said Thursday night that the election “presents a choice between two competing visions for our nation’s future, and over the past three days, Republicans have taken our case to the American people” – highlighting the failures of the Obama administration and presenting “a hopeful alternative in the Romney-Ryan ticket. “
He added in a statement that Romney’s acceptance speech “makes it clear that he is exactly the leader our country and our people desperately need at this moment in our history.” Cole said Romney “has a deep respect for free enterprise, and he understands what it takes to create jobs and opportunity.”
While it is not a huge concern, some Republicans wonder whether tea party backers and people who voted for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., will actively support – or, at the least, vote for – the Romney-Ryan ticket. U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, a conservative Republican who has support from tea party groups in southwest Missouri, told the Beacon that the choice of Ryan as the running mate has fired up tea-party-leaning voters
“A lot of people, the conservatives, were a little bit uneasy with Mitt Romney. But Paul Ryan really firmed up that base. He got the tea party excited and the conservatives excited.“ Long knows Ryan from the U.S. House, and “I haven’t called Paul Ryan anything but ‘Mr. Vice President’ for months. To me, that was Mitt Romney’s first presidential decision, and I think it was a great one.”
Long, an auctioneer by profession who is widely known in southwest Missouri, said the key to winning the state is a big turnout in traditionally GOP areas. “If we can turn out 40 percent in my district, we win statewide every time. That is vital, and this is what I’ve been working on,” Long said. “We’re excited for this November election and we are going to turn out the vote.”
While they have overlap with tea party groups, Missouri backers of former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., say they are not automatically going to back the Romney-Ryan ticket.
“Quite a few Ron Paul supporters subscribe to the ‘anybody but Obama’ view and are likely to vote for Romney,” said Paul delegate Heather Coil of St. Louis. “But others may go with the Libertarian candidate – or not vote for president."
While no local politicians spoke at the GOP convention, a native of St. Louis -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and head of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops -- delivered the benediction to end the four-day gathering. Dolan said afterwards that he would also give the benediction at the end of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., next Thursday.
Romney 'victory push' shifts into high gear
Romney attorney Ginsburg told Missouri delegates Thursday that Romney's speech was “very important” because it represented “the first time the candidate will get to tell his story outside of the filter” of the media or opponents in the GOP primary campaign.
“But this is only the start,” said Ginsburg, of a major effort to convince the American public that Romney, with his experience as a business consultant and Massachusetts governor, has the “ability to solve intractable problems,” such as those that confront the U.S. government today.
He said the debates – on Oct. 3 in Denver, Oct. 14 on Long Island and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. – “will be very big and very important” to the Romney campaign, and the candidate will prepare systematically to face Obama in them. Meanhile, Romney and Ryan will travel widely for the campaign, with sources saying that one of them will attend a major Missouri fundraiser next month.
Last week, Ryan helped raise about $1.2 million at a fundraiser in Springfield, Mo., that was attended by about 325 GOP donors and featured appearances by US. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.,and three former Missouri U.S. Senators: John Danforth, Christopher "Kit" Bond, and John Ashcroft. All of them are reportedly committed to working hard for the GOP ticket.
Meanwhile, Tom Brandt – a former Blunt staffer who is now the communication director for Romney’s campaign in Missouri – said in an interview that the campaign had opened eight “Victory offices” in all regions, in collaboration with the state GOP and the RNC.
“We’re going to win from the top down, starting with Romney and Ryan,” said Brandt. “Missouri Republicans are excited about having two excellent candidates to seal the deal.”
But Democrats, who meet next week in Charlotte, N.C., are doing everything they can to ensure that whatever “bounce” Romney-Ryan get from Tampa is quickly nullified by the Obama campaign's counter-bounce.
Democrats object to Ryan's speech
While Republicans were gearing up for Romney’s big speech Thursday night, Democrats and independent fact-checkers were combing through Ryan’s speech for misstatements or exaggerations in his harsh criticism of the Obama administration.
Click here for a New York Times fact check.
While some prominent Democrats acknowledged Thursday that Ryan gave a generally effective performance in what Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter called his “role of vice presidential attack dog,” they accused the Wisconsin congressman of misstatements and vitriol.
Among the top Democrats deployed to take issue with Ryan’s statements was U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a close Obama ally who served on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission with Ryan in 2010. He told reporters he didn’t see how Ryan – who voted against the commission’s bipartisan plan – had the right to criticize Obama for not following through on it.
Several fact-checkers also pointed out that the GM plant in Ryan’s hometown in Janesville, Wisc,, whose demise Ryan had pinned on Obama had closed, in reality, shortly before Obama took office as president, when George W. BuSh was president.
“The speechwriters came in the room and said we want you to say Barack Obama closed the GM plant in Janesville,” Durbin said, adding that Ryan “should have stopped them and said that isn’t true.”
St. Louis Public Radio 90.7 KWMU will air live NPR coverage of the Republican National Convention through Thurs., Aug. 30. Coverage will be from 7 – 10 p.m. The Nine Network will also broadcast the convention from 6-10 p.m. through Thursday.