The Corner

Mitt–the Businessman Populist, and an Upstanding One at That

A couple final impressions of Romney from his townhall in Derry, NH last night. It was well attended–maybe 200 people?–and Romney had lots of applause lines.

 –Romney emphasizes how he’s not in Washington, he has lots of private-sector experience and his specialty has been turning organizations around and getting results. Thus, he positions himself as an outsider and reformer. 

–He couples that message with a version of Howard Dean-circa 2003 populism, talking about empowering and strengthening people (minus all the screaming, of course). 

–But Romney’s populism has a business-like, technocratic cast. He often contrasts the business world’s ability to change with the stasis in Washington. He loves talking about technology. When he talked about the importance of children yesterday, he said they will be the ones “who will develop the technologies of the future.” 

–In general, he has an extremely soothing, non-threatening persona. (That might not be such an advantage–in these times, Republican voters might be looking for someone with rougher edges.)  

–He is a very fluid speaker. Amazingly fluid. No “um’s” or “uh’s,” or stumbles. 

–His “I like vetoes” line–the basis of his new ad–got a lot of applause. Of course, it was also an implicit contrast with Bush.  

–He talks of “character” and “values.” I wonder what front-running former mayor that is supposed to provide a contrast with? The point is made implicitly and powerfully by Romney campaigning with his oldest son and granddaughter. 

–Romney talks of the importance of mom’s and dad’s for children. By way of illustrating the de-valuing of marriage, he told a story yesterday of an aide going to Babies ‘R Us with his pregnant wife and getting asked by a salesperson, “What’s your girlfriend’s name?” Romney’s ability to talk about this theme without embarrassment, given his own upstanding family life, could be a big advantage in the campaign.


–He was asked about why he became pro-life yesterday. He kept his conversion story general, which makes it much stronger. “I had been wrong,” he said, noting that Reagan and the first Bush moved to become pro-life too. “We need to get a few more people to agree with us on that,” he concluded, and actually got applause.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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