Tonight, as Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for president, he did something his party has been waiting for him to do since he hit the campaign trail: Talk about himself.
For months, he’s been pegged as cold and unwilling to get personal. Even tonight, The Onion authored an article called “Romney’s Acceptance Speech To Avoid Mentioning Personal, Professional, Religious, Political Life.” Yeah, it’s The Onion, but it hit right at the heart of the problem.
Tonight though, his constant mentions of his personal life, his faith, his family and his business seemed to indicate that the campaign game is officially on.
One of the most interesting personal aspects of his speech was his family’s story. His father was born in Mexico and his family fled during the Mexican revolution.
“I grew up with stories of his family being fed by the US Government as war refugees,” he said. “My dad never made it through college and apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. And he had big dreams. He convinced my mom, a beautiful young actress, to give up Hollywood to marry him. He moved to Detroit, led a great automobile company and became Governor of the Great State of Michigan.”
The most direct appeal to women also came in the form of a family story – his mother running for a seat in the Senate.
“I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?'” he said to an audience that stood on its feet. “I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”
He also talked about the women he chose to surround himself with while governor of Massachusetts, including his Lt. governor, chief of staff, half of his cabinet and half of his senior officials. He said that, in business, he “mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.”
His personal story also offered a window to talk about something he’s altogether avoided since the start of his campaign: His faith.
Saying that he was a Mormon growing up in Michigan, and while it might have seemed unusual, he didn’t remember it that way. “My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to,” he said.
Later in the speech, he revisited the topic when discussing his family’s move to Massachusetts by saying that the church was a form of comfort in an unfamiliar place, and seemingly in an effort to address the recent criticisms of intolerance within the Mormon faith, Romney also addressed the diversity within his church.
“We had remarkably vibrant and diverse congregants from all walks of life and many who were new to America. We prayed together, our kids played together and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways,” he said.
A popular speaking point at the RNC has been Bain Capital. Speakers have said repeatedly that Obama has no right to attack Romney for being successful, and constantly used Bain as an example of the kinds of companies that Americans can produce given the right economy.
Changing course from leaving Bain out of the conversation, tonight Romney doubled down and talked specifically about the company, calling it a “great American success story” and rattling off familiar businesses that Bain helped begin.
“An office supply company called Staples – where I’m pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons. We started an early childhood learning center called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised. At a time when nobody thought we’d ever see a new steel mill built in America, we took a chance and built one in a corn field in Indiana. Today Steel Dynamics is one of the largest steel producers in the United States,” he said.
While many will talk about the effective swipes Romney took at Obama, I think what shined most in this speech was his first real attempt at humanizing himself in front of the American public. This speech formed a better picture of the real Mitt Romney than all of his previous speeches combined, and if he continues the conversation, he may begin to seem less like a cold millionaire and more like someone a voter could sit down and have a beer with.
Read the full transcript of the speech here.