After a night devoted to bringing him into focus, the newly minted Republican candidate remains gauzier than ever, hidden behind speeches of his closest rival, a wound-up keynoter and even his loving wife.
Rick Santorum leads off with the usual stump turn about his own family as if he were accepting the nomination, only to remember finally that he lost and embrace the winner into his worldview, which Romney has been at pains to avoid.
Chris Christie gives a barrelhouse keynote, talking more about his New Jersey accomplishments than Romney’s qualities without mentioning the sitting President at all, that he ends by bringing the crowd to its feet, commanding them to “stand up for America.”
These efforts bracket Ann Romney, a woman of abundant charm and political savvy, who starts with the promise of telling a love story but goes on to deliver a rousing touch-all-bases case for her husband to attract the votes of women he has been unsuccessfully courting.
As Romney joins her in the hall, a déjà vu moment brings an image from 1968 when his father was the GOP front runner. Around a conference table, George Romney talks in genial platitudes; when his wife, Lenore, a former actress, joins in, the conversation brightens. The Romney women have all the political star quality.
Now, a New York Times reporter observes, “Ann Romney is so gifted at politics, she may actually make her husband look a little bad. Their personality gap--her ease, his discomfort--has been evident in most of the many joint interviews they have given television reporters.
“But it really stood out during her bold, boisterous testimonial to him at the Republican convention on Tuesday night. She was electric-- when Mitt Romney came to her side at the end, he somehow sapped the energy from the moment."
In 1968, until a gaffe about being “brainwashed” in Vietnam, the senior Romney was headed for the nomination, but Republican colleague Gov. James Rhodes of Ohio remarked, “Watching Romney run is like watching a duck trying to [expletive deleted] a football.”
When he takes the stage for his acceptance speech tomorrow night, Willard Mitt Romney will still be under pressure to pick it up and show Americans who he is by carrying it over the goal line.
That answer may also come from 1968, when Gloria Steinem wrote about the GOP candidate, “When Richard Nixon is alone in a room, is anyone there?”