TAMPA, Fla.—Telling Americans “the time has come to turn the page,” Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night, calling President Obama’s tenure a failure of leadership the country can’t afford to extend.
Echoing running mate Paul Ryan’s Obama critique from Wednesday night, Romney recalled the president’s 2008 campaign of hope and change—promises Romney said have gone unfulfilled.
“You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president, when the best feeling you have is the day you voted for him,” Romney said. “The president hasn’t disappointed you because he wanted to. The president has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most American’s have. The one that was essential to the task at hand: He had almost no experience working in a business.”
Interrupted by shouts from protestors in the early going, it took Romney some time to build the energy of delegates in the convention hall. The Republican nominee hammered President Obama on his lack of business experience and what he termed misguided economic policies.
“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney said. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Romney also touted his stewardship of Bain Capital, which Democrats have worked to turn against him.
“Business and growing jobs is about taking risk—sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving,” said Romney.
The consensus reaction to Romney’s speech from many in the political pundit class: job …done.
“When this is over, I think people will feel they do know Romney,” former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum tweeted mid-speech. “Not a speech to quote; a speech that works.”
Much of the pre-speech analysis centered on Romney’s need to connect with ordinary Americans with his convention acceptance. The question for Romney, as speech coach Gary Genard put it, was whether he would be able to “leave behind the sometimes stodgy debater we’re familiar with, firing up not only the faithful in Tampa but the rest of America besides?”
Romney became visibly emotional when talking about his family, specifically when he recounted his mother’s Senate run.
“I think he did humanize himself a bit, and he certainly showed some real emotion,” former Clinton speechwriter Paul Orzulak said of Romney’s speech. “Overall, I thought it was probably the best Romney could do, but I don’t know that it was enough for most people.”
Having worked for former Vice President Al Gore, Orzulak said he’s familiar with the challenge of writing for a politician who sometimes has difficulty connecting with audiences.
“I’m sort of familiar with the problem of having someone who isn’t comfortable in his own skin and comfortable talking about his own accomplishments,” he said. “The problem for Romney is that he didn’t even give the best speech of the 10 o’clock hour, let alone the convention.”
Romney was preceded by a rousing speech from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and a rambling appearance from Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, during which the actor spoke to an empty chair and pretended to have a conversation with President Obama.
Romney did take plenty of time in his speech to court women, Hispanics and independents. The Republican also launched a tough critique of the president’s foreign policy, promising an administration that would display some “backbone.”
“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed, but his promises gave way to disappointment and division,” Romney said. “This isn’t something we have to accept.”