Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention on Thursday evening at 10:00 p.m. after two speeches from Floridians, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Before that, Newt and Callista Gingrich will also speak. It is clear why the RNC is putting two sunshine-staters in tonight’s lineup, but I have no idea why the RNC or the Romney campaign would choose to have Gingrich speaking, even if it is 3 hours before their main candidate speaks.
But set that aside.
After the speeches that Paul Ryan and Condoleezza Rice gave last night, many feel that the Republican party has demonstrated its ability to stand behind bold ideas and strong leaders. Mitt Romney has a chance to continue the momentum of the convention and put forward in his own words his vision for America before a large portion of Americans.
The likely outcome is a bump for Romney. Tom Holbrook, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, has a nice post about his attempt to model post-convention bounces, and he guesses that Romney will gain by about 3 percentage points and Obama’s convention will net him a gain of about 1 percentage point in national polling. Since the most comprehensive poll I could find (n=1,051) has Obama up by 1%, the convention could be Romney’s chance to take the lead by 1%, even after Obama has had his convention.
Of course, a lot depends on what Romney actually says. There are several things Romney could say that would make me more likely to vote for him. Some are things he might actually say, and others are just fantasies of mine. There’s no chance he would say them, but if he did, it would really impress me.
Here are several things he might actually say that would influence me:
1) Get specific about his first one hundred days. I would like to know what issues and policies he thinks about most. His campaign rhetoric would make one think that he has every possible issue front and center in his mind at all times, but everyone knows that’s not the case. Time is finite, the number of issues is enormous, and drafting and implementing just one bill or executive order is time-consuming. People have priorities. Obama spent his time on healthcare and it took a lot of legislative effort. Where does Mitt Romney want to devote his energy? If one suspects that his answer would be “the economy,” then I would like to hear some specifics. What could he do immediately once in office to spur job growth? The answer better not be, “spend more money,” because that’s something he seems to be against.
2) Tell me about his idols. This is kind of a puffball task, but it is something that I would like to see and something he might actually do. In a debate against Sen. Kennedy in 1994, Romney distanced himself slightly from Reagan, but in his campaign, he’s been brandishing Reagan’s name like a shiny watch. Knowing who inspires him would humanize him in my mind while also giving me some information about his core political philosophy. The more specific he could be about what his idols have done to inspire him, the more I would take notice.
As a side note, people talk about Mitt Romney’s lack of likability. It’s a shame, because in that 1994 debate, he’s not only funny, but he directly and strongly answers concerns about his wealth making him “out of touch” with the ordinary person. It’s also funny because one of the big issues in this debate is jobs and his Bain record. Some things never change.
Here is what he won’t say, but I would like to hear: I would be really impressed if Mitt Romney talked about a policy proposal, any policy proposal, for more than 30 seconds. Before elections, it is much easier to talk in general terms about “free enterprise” or “paying one’s fair share,” but those slogans are incredibly unhelpful in allowing voters to judge the wisdom of various policies.
Instead, I would like Mitt Romney to name a policy he wants to implement, explain how it works, and to invest, in an honest way, in the ideas that he champions. This would mean outlining what numbers he’s working off of, and where those numbers come from. In my mind, nothing is a better window into a person’s viewpoint than watching them attach themselves carefully and in a detailed manner, to the hard choices of making policy. It would also help me assess if Romney knows anything about the issue areas. I suspect he knows something about the economy (most Americans do too), but he has not yet demonstrated that knowledge to me. A debate cannot happen without details, and that has been missing on both sides of this 2012 race.
No one would ever do this in such an important, nationally televised debate, first because numbers and details bore people, and second because it’s political suicide to make a more defined target for ads and counter-sound bites.