Romney Breaks Out of His Robotic Shell, Emerges as Generic Republican

If you tuned in to the Republican National Convention last night hoping to learn something about Mitt Romney, you probably came away satisfied. With a video highlighting his family and role as a father, his campaign did an excellent job of presenting the candidate's humanity. Romney himself added to the success, with a speech that went a long way toward reintroducing him as not just a cold automatron.

He told the crowd that he grew up in "the middle of the century and the middle of the country"—a way of minimizing the distance between his incredibly privileged life and the more ordinary lives of almost everyone else—and he showed genuine emotion when telling the crowd about his parents. In particular, he shared a moving story about how his father used to leave a rose on his mother’s nightstand every evening, and she knew he had died when that flower was missing. It elicited genuine tears from Romney, and quick shots of the crowd proved he had made a connection—more than a few people sat with their hands over their mouths.

Given the reach of the national conventions, I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney sees a lasting uptick in his favorability, from its current net negative—according to ABC News and the Washington Post, the lowest for any major party nominee, ever—to something a little less terrible.

With that said, if you tuned in last night to learn something about Mitt Romney’s policies—and how he would perform as president—then you came away disappointed. Despite vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s promise that Romney would discuss policy in “granular detail,” there was little of the sort; he offered nothing by way of specific legislative details, reiterated his vague proposals for economic growth—which do little for the short-term economy—and offered a critique of Obama’s spending that bordered on schizophrenic:

His trillion dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk;

His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation – and jobs – in medicine.

And his trillion-dollar deficits will slow our economy, restrain employment, and cause wages to stall.

In other words, Obama doesn’t care about deficits, but he also cut trillions from Medicare and the military. Both can’t be true, but Romney hopes voters won’t catch on.

There was a promise to create 12 million jobs over the next four years, but even that’s less impressive than it sounds—under current policy, according to Moody’s Analytics, the economy is projected to create 11.84 million jobs between now and 2016. If you take him at his word, Romney is promising to create 160,000 jobs during his tenure as president, which would make him the worst job creator of the post-war era.

Since the beginning of the Republican convention, Obama has improved his position in the campaign. In his projection, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver gives the president a 71.6 percent chance of winning the popular vote and electoral college, a 3-percent increase from last week. For Romney to cut into that, he needed to ease public doubts.

It’s not just that voters still like President Obama—a fact Romney tried to address by recounting his pride in Obama’s election—but that they’re well-aware of the tough circumstances he inherited, and are still suspicious of a GOP that caused the mess in the first place. More than anything else, Romney had to show that he is a different kind of Republican—someone you can trust to move the country in the right direction.

As it stands, Romney came across as a generic Republican, and while that’s good enough for some, it may not be good enough for 50 plus 1 percent of voters.