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Tuesday, August 28, 2012
If I Were in Charge of the Republican Convention

I'm not in charge of this week's convention in Tampa, but here's how it would go, if I were.

I am neither a top strategist nor a speech writer for the Mitt Romney campaign, no doubt for good reason. But here's what I'd be trying to do in this week's convention if I were -- which, again, I amn't. (I can say "amn't" legitimately; I'm one-eighth Scottish.)

Early on, I'd have Ann Romney and maybe one of the Romney sons telling a bunch of those true stories Mitt can't and won't tell about himself. These are the ones even the left-leaning, reliably anti-Romney Boston Globe had to report in their book, The Real Romney; the ones that have The Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson reluctantly beginning to like Romney, writing of "endless kindnesses," and moving toward this remarkable conclusion:

To this touching kindness and fatherly wisdom, The Real Romney adds other traits that will continue to grate -- he's a know-it-all and likely to remain so, and his relationship to political principle has always been tenuous. Which makes him a, uh, politician. But now I suspect he's also something else, a creature rarely found in the highest reaches of American politics: a good guy.

I understand why the Big Media Acronyms (BMA) don't want to televise Mrs. Romney's convention speech. She'll do well and is a strong, intelligent, and sympathetic figure. Worse still, there's a real risk that she'll do what I'm saying she should do. The BMA reflexively back that leftist community organizer who's so inconveniently out of his depth in his current job. But even they have to see that the incumbent has no defense against stories of a good guy quietly showering Christmas gifts on struggling families -- at his own expense, not the taxpayers' -- or shutting down the business for a few days and taking people to Manhattan to find a colleague's missing daughter (which they did). And -- forgive me if this sounds self-serving -- if the public at large ever begins to appreciate the role of a Mormon bishop or stake president (Romney was both) in working one-on-one, 20 or more hours per week, year after year, without pay and usually behind the scenes, to lift the troubled and the downtrodden, we may have to jettison the silly prejudice that Republicans (especially rich ones) are inevitably heartless and greedy.

Whoever nominates or introduces Governor Romney should briefly pick up where Mrs. Romney leaves off, but, otherwise, I'd devote a lot of the other convention speeches to trying to win a majority in the US Senate and a larger majority in the House. The next big play, where the presidential race is concerned, would be Paul Ryan's.

I want Congressman Ryan doing three things. First, I want him to give a good, clear explanation of how RomneyCare isn't even remotely like ObamaCare. (For quick reference, see Mona Charen's "What Romney Needs to Say About RomneyCare.") This will help to immunize conservatives and potentially sympathetic moderates against the White House's campaign myth that ObamaCare is just RomneyCare writ large. Second, I want him to talk plainly and accurately about the fate of Medicare and other entitlements if they are unreformed, and his and Romney's proposals to reform them without killing Grandma. Third, I want his own perspective on why Romney is both a good guy and the right guy.

If Ann Romney's and Paul Ryan's speeches go well, and if they are not televised by the BMA -- maybe even if they are -- I would seriously consider spending a whole bunch of campaign money to buy prime television time to broadcast them, perhaps one speech each in late September and early October. I'd do the same with a new 25-minute Mitt Romney speech or two later in the campaign.

For Mitt Romney's convention speech, I think Peggy Noonan would be the best speech writer. She has a great gift for casting a candidate's own ideals, aspirations, and intentions in language which is presidential, but to which the people at large will respond.

I want Mitt to tell me how the economic troubles the Democrats want us to believe are the new normal are really not; how they are not just Bush's fault, but largely Obama's and the Democrats'; and -- in strong, simple language -- how we're going to get back to a healthy economy. I want him to tell me how our present weak and fawning posture on the world stage harms the nation and the world, and how we're going to return to a position of strength and integrity -- without sending aircraft carriers to every major waterway in the world. I want him to talk about the freedoms we are losing, who's taking them, why they matter, and how we will reclaim them. I want him to sound a little bit like Churchill, a bit more like Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent speech to Congress, and a lot like Ronald Reagan. I want him to connect his policies and principles firmly to ordinary people -- this is where Peggy Noonan could excel -- to help even the downtrodden understand that the America Barack Obama despises (and has labored very effectively to change) is the America that is their best and fondest hope. I want freedom to be an heroic aspiration, and free stuff from the government to be an inferior, pale, regrettable counterfeit.

This week is when a lot of people start to pay serious attention to the election, and more are coming next week, after Labor Day. It's time roll out the live rhetorical ammo. It's time to turn a likely Romney victory into a Romney landslide, with the accompanying mandate. Just as, on a smaller scale, Vice President Biden is a wholly inadequate answer to Paul Ryan, so, on a larger scale, the Democratic Party of 2012 has no effective answer to a genuinely, recognizably American vision, if Mitt Romney can articulate that vision.

Yes, I just made a prediction. More than two months remain of the campaign. A lot of things could happen, and some will. But I'm cautiously optimistic about a Romney landslide. One of the unanswered questions in the meantime is, Does the Obama campaign have any clue how much they'll harm their own and their party's interests by continuing or, worse, expanding their absurd and despicable campaign of lies, distractions, and distortions? How much lower will they go, as their desperation to cling to power increases?

Here's a much easier prediction: The next ten weeks will be fascinating and intermittently ugly. Then, ten weeks from today, Americans will decide (not for the last time) whether the future of the United States of America will be as distinctive as its past has been. Mitt Romney is the face of a distinctly American future, even if he is, perhaps, not its ideal face. As the last four years have shown us in practice, not just theory, Barack Obama (perhaps with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi looking over his shoulder) is the poster child of American mediocrity and decline.

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