TAMPA, Fla. – Declaring that “we deserve better” than the economic record compiled by President Obama, Mitt Romney accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president Thursday and said he had a specific plan to create “jobs, lots of jobs.”
Speaking to what was almost certainly the largest – and perhaps the most consequential – audience of his almost six-year-long quest for the presidency, Romney lauded private enterprise and sought to reassure voters still uncertain about him by telling a more personal story of his life.
At the same time, he reached out to Americans who voted for Obama four years ago but now feel let down. Employing a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, he accused Obama of presiding over an era of “disappointment and division.”
Obama, he said, had been an attractive candidate, but an ineffective executive, and he expressed empathy with those who had sided with the Democrat in 2008.
“ ‘Hope and Change’ had a powerful appeal,” he 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? 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.”
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The speech offered no new policy details. Romney repeated his campaign promise to create 12 million jobs in the next four years – a relatively modest goal that would roughly track growth during the Clinton administration – and vowed not to “raise taxes on the middle class of America.” By contrast, he said, Obama had made the economy worse by pursuing tax plans that discouraged businesses from hiring new workers.
And he tweaked the president for what Republicans see as his tendency toward grandiose promises. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” he said. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Romney conceded what polls repeatedly have shown: that despite the fact that he has been running almost continuously since seeking the Republican nomination in 2008, many voters have only a vague sense of him as a wealthy businessman from Massachusetts.
“You need to know more about me and about where I’d lead our country,” he said.
Democrats have tried to foster the image of a multimillionaire who is out of touch with the lives of average Americans and whose business background has involved layoffs, offshore bank accounts and hidden tax returns.
Romney tried to rebut that, talking of his childhood and, in a rare move, mentioning his faith.
“We were Mormons,” he said, talking of his boyhood, adding that although his is a minority faith, his friends cared about which sports teams he followed, “not which church I went to.”
He spoke glowingly of his wife, Ann, and their early life together as they raised their five sons, portraying the family in terms that depicted a life similar to that of an average, middle-class couple.
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Following the lead of Ann Romney’s speech on the convention’s opening night, which appealed directly to female voters, Romney talked of his mother, Lenore Romney, who ran for Senate from Michigan when her son was in his early 20s.
“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?’ ” he said.
“As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my Cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.”
Turning to his business record, he described the private equity firm he founded, Bain Capital, as a “small company” that was an offshoot of a firm “that was in the business of helping other businesses.”
So risky was the venture, he joked, that when he initially looked for investors in the new firm, he hadn’t asked the church pension fund for fear that he would “go to hell” if he failed and lost the money.
As he has done on the campaign trail, he recounted a list of familiar brand names that Bain helped get off the ground, including Staples, the Sports Authority and the Bright Horizons childhood learning centers.
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“These are American success stories,” he said, adding that the “centerpiece of the president’s entire campaign is attacking success.”
In a reflection of a campaign that has been dominated by economic issues, Romney made scant mention of foreign affairs – barely two minutes in a 37-minute speech. He accused Obama of failing to stand up to Iran and its nuclear program and charged that the president had “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”
Under a Romney administration, he said, he would work “with all my energy and my soul” to restore a “united America.”
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