Like a marathoner who has easily led the field for the past 10 miles, Thursday night Mitt Romney enters the stadium to complete the final lap surrounded by cheering fans at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
It’s Romney’s first speech as the Republican nominee for president of the United States. The speech offers the opportunity for Romney to present himself to undecided voters, who until now, have only been paying cursory attention to the presidential election. Next week, President Barack Obama will be formally renominated for president by the Democrats and he’ll have the same opportunity to woo undecided voters with his highly publicized acceptance speech.
Frankly, these major-party conventions have become mostly boring, rah-rah set-ups to the nominee’s speech on the final night. It’s been 36 years since a party convention began with drama over who would be the nominee. In 1976, former-president Gerald Ford narrowly outpolled Ronald Reagan, who would win the presidency four years later.
Thursday's speech has been preceded by speeches leading up to the Romney coronation. Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, provided viewers on Tuesday night an introduction to her husband from the spouse’s perspective. Romney, like the president, has been battered with a barrage of negative ads and commentary by political opponents. Frankly, the garbage tossed back and forth hasn’t had much impact. As the conventions begin and the Labor Day sprint to the presidency starts, most polls have President Obama and Romney in a statistical tie.
Perhaps the most important goal for Romney in his speech is to create a connection between himself and the voters. The former Massachusetts governor has a reputation as a very competent business leader who can solve problems. He’s pitching that business acumen and expertise as a promise that he can fix the dreary economy. However, he also comes across as aloof, robotic, impersonal and, as super-wealthy, out of touch with most Americans. It will be interesting to observe Romney’s speech, and see how viewers respond to it.
Similar challenges await President Obama next week as well.