The keys to an inspirational speech are to understand the audience’s moods and needs and address them. In that respect, Mitt Romney did a great job in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
In my evaluation, I’m not going to talk about the political issues or do any fact-checking. There is no shortage of people doing that. I’m just taking a look at how effectively he gave his speech.
Going into tonight’s speech, Governor Romney must have been aware of all of the image problems he and his party have. He is portrayed as too rich and out of touch to care about the needs of ordinary Americans. His party is seen as hostile to women (no doubt that the comments by Todd Akin and others contributed to this). The Republicans have also been blamed for the deadlock in Washington by being hostile to the president and willing for the country to fail so that President Obama would fail (no doubt that the comments by most of the speakers at the convention and Clint Eastwood’s bit with the chair contributed to this.)
In his speech, Romney addressed all of those concerns. He spoke about the humble beginnings of Bane Capital, which has been a lightning rod for all the attacks of him being a greedy job destroyer. He also spent a lot of time praising women, including his mother, wife, and the women he had in his cabinet.
The most interesting thing about the speech was how respectful he was to President Obama and the Democrats. He mentioned John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman. Of President Obama, he said:
I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.
He was even careful to moderate his criticisms of the president:
The President hasn’t disappointed you because he wanted to. The President has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction.
While he was trying to appeal to the center by appearing respectful to the opposition and addressing the concerns the majority of Americans have about the economy, he also kept the social conservatives on his side by touching on their main issues:
As president, I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.
Speaking of religion, Romney also had to assure the evangelicals, a number of whom don’t even consider Mormons to be truly Christian, that he is just like everyone else:
We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan; that might have seemed unusual or out of place but I really don’t remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to.
Overall, Governor Romney presented himself as a reasonable, concerned, and respectful leader. He even handled an interruption by a protestor with patience. Is that enough to sway voters or to keep the more passionate members of his own party on his side? This will depend on how President Obama counters with his acceptance speech and how Romney handles the debates and the rest of his campaign. To be a successful candidate, he will need more than a single speech. He’ll need to prove himself in the speeches to come.