Paul Ryan’s vice presidential acceptance speech at the second night of the Republican National Convention followed the same mantra of the Romney/Ryan campaign so far: Obama bad, so vote for us.
While last night’s speakers strayed away from mentioning the president by name, Ryan took the bull by the horns, saying Obama’s name a total of 21 times in his speech, which lasted less than 15 minutes.
“Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?” Ryan asked in his speech, before rattling off a list of wrongs committed by the Obama administration, ranging from healthcare to attack ads to the economy.
“My Dad used to say to me: ‘Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.’ The present administration has made its choices,” Ryan said. “Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems. And I’m going to level with you: We don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.”
That’s all well and good. But where are their numbers? Where are their specifics? Do they honestly believe that the electorate is dumb enough to believe a non-existent plan can be reasonably compared to the current president’s proposals? Well, I suppose that depends on how much they hate Obama.
Even the most ardent of Republicans are calling on Ryan and Romney to be more specific. In a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast on Wednesday in Tampa, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called for Ryan to lay out specifics in his speech at the RNC.
“And I think tonight, with Paul, but particularly tomorrow night with the governor, he’s got to lay out a very clear plan. When it comes to the economy, he’s got a plan. He’s got a five-point plan on that. But I think most Americans don’t know it. Most Americans actually don’t know Mitt Romney,” he said.
While Romney has stayed far away from mentioning his personal life in any capacity, Ryan touched hard on his life growing up and on the importance of his family. When he talked about his mother rebuilding her life after his father’s death, he even got a little teary eyed. Touching, and a much warmer feeling than you’ll get from the helmet-haired GOP presidential candidate.
“Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model,” he said, showing more emotion in a paragraph than Mitt Romney has in his entire campaign, and eliciting hardy cheers from the audience.
In addition to emotion, Ryan’s speech was also full of zingy one-liners (even if those one-liners weren’t particularly substantive). The best one?
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
He also pulled out all the stops when it came to Medicare, as you might expect. But, aside from those moments of sting, there really wasn’t much there. But what can you expect? It is a convention speech after all.
Today, before his speech, Ryan advisors told CBS that – in fact – there probably wouldn’t be a lot of specifics in this speech.
“I don’t expect this to be a policy speech. It’s a convention speech,” said one top aide.
Because convention speeches can’t possibly have intelligent things in them — they are meant to spice up the party!
Let’s forget some really great speeches done at conventions like Ted Kennedy’s in 1980, which talked at length about Democratic Party’s values in support of then-candidate Jimmy Carter, or Ronald Reagan’s acceptance speech at the convention in 1984, which was littered with specific numbers. Or what about George H.W. Bush, who said specifically that he would create “30 million jobs in the next eight years” through defined policies he laid out in the same speech? Or just last year when Joe Biden accepted his vice presidential nomination by talking about specific policy plans for his and Obama’s joint campaign?
Specifics? Not necessary.