Mitt Romney accepts nomination, focuses on adding jobs
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND NATASHA KORECKI Staff Reporters August 30, 2012 4:08PM
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Updated: October 1, 2012 5:52PM
TAMPA, Fla. —With help from legendary tough guy Clint Eastwood, Republican Mitt Romney accepted his party’s presidential nomination Thursday, promising millions of new jobs while scorning Barack Obama for a presidency that “gave way to disappointment and division.”
“How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America? Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and change had a powerful appeal,” a relaxed and fit-looking Romney said.
“But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?” he said, interrupted by applause.
“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,” he said in an even bigger applause line.
While it was Romney’s show Thursday night, he wound up almost getting upstaged by a cameo from Eastwood, who took the night’s dismantling of Obama’s “hope and change” agenda to a comical new level.
The Oscar winner recalled Obama’s election, when the masses were moved by his promises and his ascension as the first African-American president.
“It was dark and outdoors, people lighting candles — I just thought this was great, everybody’s crying, Oprah’s crying,” Eastwood said in his trademark raspy voice to an eruption of laughter. “Even I was crying.”
But then, Eastwood hit Obama in the political gullet.
“I haven’t cried that hard since I found out there’s 23 million unemployed people in this country. That’s something to cry for because that’s a national disgrace,” said Eastwood, who ended his remarks by leading the crowd in a chant of his iconic “Go ahead, make my day” line from the 1971 movie, “Dirty Harry.”
Romney, wearing a dark business suit and red power tie, batted last but swung for the fences on the final night of the GOP’s hurricane-shortened convention by making a case that his business background — including building an investment firm called Bain Capital into an “American success story” — best qualifies him to restore a pulse to America’s economy and create 12 million jobs in his first term.
Romney faced the task of trying to soften the widespread perception of him as a mega-millionaire with three homes, including one equipped with a car elevator, unable to relate to Americans now facing underwater mortgages, job losses, pay cuts and no pay increases. He presented his credentials as a job creator, using testimonials earlier in the night from business owners small and large, including from Staples CEO and co-founder Tom Stemberg.
“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,” Romney said. “What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs. In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class.”
The former Massachusetts governor also had the challenge of making himself more appealing to women voters, who still seem to embrace Obama.
During his speech, Romney mentioned nothing remotely close to a feminist agenda but noted his help in advancing a female lieutenant governor in Massachusetts and mentoring “great women leaders who went on to run great companies.” He also spoke of the influence his own politically ambitious mother had on his views toward women.
“When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. 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?’” Romney said.
Early in his speech, Romney made a reference to his Mormon faith and how it shaped him as a boy in Michigan and encouraged a “help others” approach in his life.
“We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan it might have been unusual and out of place, but I don’t remember it that way,” he said.
In move likely aimed to fire up the conservative base, Romney touched on hot-button social issues like gay marriage and abortion, though he favors allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest.
“As president, I will protect sanctity of life and honor the institution of marriage,” he said to a loud applause. “I will guarantee America’s first liberty, the freedom of religion.”
Other pieces of Romney’s past came alive through the voices of his son, business associates, fellow members of the Mormon church and the elderly parents of a cancer-stricken Boy Scout, a child for whom Romney eulogized.
Ted and Pat Oparowski, who once lived in Massachusetts, told the story of how Romney befriended their 14-year-old son, David, after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
For seven months, the couple said, Romney came and went from their son’s hospital room, developing a deep bond that even included helping the boy, at his request, divvy up his model rockets, fishing gear and rifle in a will.
“How many men do you know would take the time out of their busy lives to visit a terminally ill 14-year-old and help him settle his affairs?” the boy’s mother asked, her voice echoing dramatically through a silenced convention hall.
The night went back and forth between personal stories like that and speakers laying out Romney’s vision and credentials to be president.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), once high on Romney’s vice presidential short list and a key to his hopes of switching swing-state Florida from a blue state to a red one, introduced Romney as the single-best way to turn America around.
“Mitt Romney is running for president because he knows that if we are willing to do for our children what our parents did for us, life in America can be better than it has ever been,” Rubio said.
Emphasizing the strategic importance of the Sunshine State, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also was on the night’s lineup of speakers, his job to demonstrate that Obama can’t legitimately get away with blaming the country’s economic ills on the last Republican president, Jeb Bush’s brother, George Bush.
“You were dealt a tough hand,” Jeb Bush said, referring to Obama. “But your policies have not worked.”
Like him or not, Romney used his speech to drive home the point that right now, America is a place of lost potential, that the hope and change Obama once promised in 2008 never materialized on his watch and that it’s time to try something else.
“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help we will do something,” Romney said.
“If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future,” Romney said. “That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us.”