Romney Will Argue Obama Has Failed to Meet Promises
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Published: August 30, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney will call upon disappointed and disaffected Americans to turn President Obama out of office in November, arguing in his convention speech that the president has failed to deliver the hope that he promised four years ago.
In advance excerpts from remarks that he will deliver on Thursday night, Mr. Romney expresses sadness for what he says was Mr. Obama’s inability to confront the nation’s economic problems. And he urges voters to reflect on whether they remain as excited by Mr. Obama’s ascension to the presidency as they were when they elected him almost four years ago.
“If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?” Mr. Romney will ask, according to the excerpts, which were released to reporters. “You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
In the remarks, Mr. Romney repeatedly expresses optimism about America’s future and says that even though he opposed Mr. Obama’s election, he joined with Americans in hoping that he would succeed.
“But his promises gave way to disappointment and division,” Mr. Romney plans to say.
The excerpts suggest that the address will not use the kind of searing language that he has often used on the campaign trail to tear down Mr. Obama. Instead, Mr. Romney will offer a look at his own life and a focus on the policies that he would pursue as president.
As part of his campaign’s effort to reach out to women, Mr. Romney will talk in more personal terms about his mother than he has before.
“When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way,” he will say, according to the excerpts. “I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?’ ”
The tone of the speech suggests that Mr. Romney is hoping to use his moment on the campaign’s biggest stage to rise above the bitter political sniping that has characterized much of the 2012 presidential campaign.
“The time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us,” Mr. Romney will say, “to put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations.”
But there clearly will be moments when Mr. Romney will offer an audience that could be in the tens of millions the tough critique about Mr. Obama that they have come to expect. Referring to the president’s speech in 2008 when he clinched the nomination, Mr. Romney mocked Mr. Obama’s celebrity.
“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Mr. Romney will say. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Polls consistently suggest that Mr. Romney remains less well liked among voters than Mr. Obama, and that he must use the speech to bring to life his own personal story.
In the convention’s keynote address on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey argued that politicians should strive for respect rather than love. But if Americans want to love their presidents, Mr. Romney’s speech on Thursday may be his best opportunity to cement that courtship.
Aides said Mr. Romney’s speech would cap an evening intended to reclaim a positive story line about his life’s experiences after a summer in which Mr. Obama’s campaign has portrayed him as a wealthy, out-of-touch business executive who cares more for profit than people.
“What you are going to see tonight is a lot of telling Governor Romney’s personal story,” said Russ Schriefer, a top adviser to Mr. Romney’s campaign who is producing the convention.
That effort will start early, with speakers from the Mormon Church testifying about Mr. Romney’s character. Associates from his years at Bain Capital will counter the Democratic criticisms about the private equity firm with testimonials about his experience there. The founder of Staples will testify about the success of Mr. Romney’s investments. Three Olympians will praise his leadership of the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
Organizers of the convention are counting on Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a popular figure in the state and among Hispanics, to inject energy into the crowd and project a diverse image to viewers. A mystery speaker is rumored to be the actor Clint Eastwood. Aides refused to confirm whether Mr. Eastwood would appear.
“It wouldn’t be a mystery,” Mr. Schriefer said. “It seems to be driving interest this way.”
But it will ultimately fall to Mr. Romney to make the case on his own behalf, a fact that he and his advisers seem to fully understand. Advisers said he had been working on the speech on and off for most of the summer, including reviewing addresses by past nominees.
“He’s been thinking about it for months, making notes and reading other speeches, reading broadly on a lot of subjects,” Stuart Stevens, Mr. Romney’s chief strategist, told reporters this week. “He keeps a lot of notes.”
Mr. Romney has proved himself to be a disciplined — if not often inspiring — speaker during the last six years. His challenge Thursday night remains whether he can connect with viewers on a personal level, earning their trust and making them feel they could imagine him sitting in the Oval Office.
The bar for the speech was raised a bit on Wednesday night by his running mate, Paul D. Ryan, who delivered a well-received speech that mixed folksy charm with policy attacks to the delight of the thousands packed into the convention hall.
It also follows the address by Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, who repeatedly brought delegates to their feet with a pointed critique of America’s place in the world and her personal observations about the nation’s decline under Mr. Obama.
For days, organizers worried about the political reverberations of Mr. Romney’s remarks coming after Hurricane Isaac slammed into the Gulf Coast, distracting the audience at a crucial time in the campaign. Throughout the week, aides continued to hold out the option of changing the schedule to avoid looking indifferent to the suffering of those in the storm’s path.
The storm has produced scenes of flooding and at least one death. But it did not hit with the kind of force that Hurricane Katrina did seven years ago, persuading organizers to go ahead with the program. Mr. Obama has also continued to campaign as the storm made landfall and moved inland.
On Friday, after his speech, Mr. Romney will hold a rally in Florida before heading on to Virginia and then Ohio — all battleground states that are crucial to his campaign’s success.