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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Mitt Romney at CPAC

By Jennifer Rubin

Mitt Romney's wife Ann introduced Romney, trying to humanize a candidate that in 2008 seemed remote if not plastic. However, this line didn't exactly make him seem warm and cuddly: "When the children were young and Mitt would call home from a business trip on the road, he would often hear a very tired and exasperated young mother, overwhelmed by our rambunctious five boys." She's an attractive lady and her battles against MS and cancer make her especially sympathetic; she however needs better material.

Romney's delivery was more relaxed and quick-paced than in the past. His use of humor was perhaps the most noticeable change. (This got a hearty laugh: "The world - and our valiant troops - watched in confusion as the President announced that he intended to win the war in Afghanistan....as long as it didn't go much beyond August of 2011. And while the Taliban may not have an air force or sophisticated drones, it's safe to say... they do have calendars.") Romney is a polished and professional pol.

As for the substance, he made clear he's not a pull-up-the-drawbridge Republican. In fact he began his speech with a foreign policy riff:

An uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak President. The President who touted his personal experience as giving him special insight into foreign affairs was caught unprepared when Iranian citizens rose up against oppression. His proposed policy of engagement with Iran and North Korea won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How's that worked out? Iran armed Hezbollah and Hamas and is rushing toward nuclear weapons. North Korea fired missiles, tested nukes, sunk a South Korean ship and shelled a South Korean island. And his "reset program" with Russia? That consisted of our President abandoning our missile defense in Poland and signing a one-sided nuclear treaty. The cause of liberty cannot endure much more of his "they get, we give" diplomacy!

But the heart of his speech was the economy. But, for obvious reasons, he limited his focus to job creation, entirely ignoring ObamaCare. His attention to jobs was effective insofar as it went:

Fifteen million Americans are out of work. And millions and millions more can't find the good paying jobs they long for and deserve. You've seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren't as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama's Hoovervilles.

Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy--a moral tragedy of epic proportion. Unemployment is not just a statistic. Fifteen million unemployed is not just a number. Unemployment means kids can't go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can't find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. Liberals should be ashamed that they and their policies have failed these good and decent Americans!

Curiously his only mention of debt was this: "Like the Europeans, they grew the government, they racked up bigger deficits, they took over healthcare, they pushed cap and trade, they stalled production of our oil and gas and coal, they fought to impose unions on America's workers, and they created over a hundred new agencies and commissions and hundreds of thousands of pages of new regulations."

And that, by the way was his ONLY mention of ObamaCare. It struck many as a bizarre and ultimately unsustainable approach. I asked a Republican senior advisor on the Hill (not aligned with any candidate) what he thought. I'll spare you the link but he sent a photo with a monkey on the back of a man facing a computer screen. A GOP consultant was stunned, dashing off this email: "You. Are. Kidding. ME! It's about the equivalent of the Democrats refusing to acknowledge that ObamaCare played a major role in their mid-term election defeat." Ouch.

If Romney never faces a tough question on RomneyCare, never has to debate and never confronts Tea Partyers enraged by any plan that requires citizens to buy insurance, he'll do just fine. But that's delusional. And his speech provided no clue as to how he is going to overcome his greatest liability.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 11, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Comments

What this sounds like is the conservative politicians' version of actresses arriving at some awards show wearing fancy gowns and strutting down the red carpet.

While we can all ooh and aah about what these pols are strutting (their CPAC speeches), the real tests start later when organizations must be created, money raised, favor curried amongst those with the cash, positions and strategies plotted, and finally the caucuses and primaries begin.

Is anyone going to remember any of these CPAC speeches a year from now, or even a month from now?

Posted by: MsJS | February 11, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"She's an attractive lady and her battles against MS and cancer make her especially sympathetic;" --J. Rubin

On a personal level I find the above quote both hilarious and disturbing.

Hilarious that Ms. Rubin falls into the trap of even considering that anything about the spouse has relevance for the politician's qualifications for office. Whatever happened to the traditional GOP stance of leaving the politician's private life alone?

Disturbing that Ms. Rubin seems so willing to consider Mrs. Romney's illnesses as (a) possibly useful for a sympathy vote; and (b) something Mrs. Romney would want you to have sympathy about.

I don't know Mrs. Romney, but I know plenty of people with MS. I myself am now in a wheelchair after 20+ years with the disease. Neither I nor anyone else I know who has MS want or need sympathy from anyone. We actually lead productive, fulfilling and meaningful lives that would delight you.

Posted by: MsJS | February 11, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I assume the whole reason Rubin wrote this article, because there was an opportunity to bash Iran, as stated " ... His proposed policy of engagement with Iran". Well Obama never engaged with Iran honestly, in one hand he offered olive branch and other the most lethal weapons (death squads, espionage, including dangerouge sabotage of nuclear site built by Russian).
I call Jennifer Rubin the "SPIN MASTER".

Posted by: abraham3 | February 11, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

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