Romney’s Convention Speech Was Ineffective

Mitt Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention received a few good reviews, but there was a big drop off in viewers from the 2008 Convention and polls indicated that, of those who saw it, it was ineffective in attracting support.

Mitt RomneyFirst, the good news:

Dick Morris, the former top political advisor to President Bill Clinton turned conservative columnist and commentator, said Romney's (pictured) speech was Reaganesque.  He said the GOP presidential nominee was "open, approachable, empathetic, and idealistic."

Michael Barone, co-author of the Almanac of American Politics, said "Romney showed the right stuff."  He was "inspiring but not slick."

These words are strong praise coming from two of the most respected political observers in the nation.

The Mashable website said the social media numbers for the Convention were impressive: more than 4 million tweets, 2.5 million-plus YouTube views, and 300,000 hours of streaming video.

"These numbers certainly set a high bar for the Democratic National Convention," said Alex Fitzpatrick

Now, the bad news:

The Hill reports that "Television viewership on the final night of the Republican National Convention dropped 22% compared to the same night in 2008."

The Nielsen ratings showed that, in 2008, more than 38.9 million people watched Senator John McCain's acceptance speech, compared with only 30.3 million who watched Romney's speech.

Romney gave an unusual acceptance speech, largely content free.  With very little editing, the speech could have been given by almost any Democrat.

The speech told personal stories about Romney's background and family. And it lamented the poor state of the economy, which any non-incumbent would do running against a president who could be tied to high unemployment.

The full text is online here.

When it got around to mentioning a few issues, Romney said things like, "As president, I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America's first liberty: the freedom of religion."

While these may have been code words to conservatives, Romney did not specify what he meant by "protect the sanctity of life."  And President Obama could truthfully say--using his own liberal value system--that he honors the institution of marriage and believes in the freedom of religion.

Vague generalities are not as good as specific policies and programs.

And how about this Romney zinger:  "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise is to help you and your family."

It is likely Romney's consultants told him that polls and focus groups of undecided voters didn't approve of Obama's performance in office but were not yet sold on Romney as president.  Some of these surveys may have indicated many voters didn't think Romney was very likeable.

So, the acceptance speech was designed to sell Romney the man, rather than Romney's positions on the issues.  However, that doesn't seem to have worked too well.

A Gallup Poll found Romney's speech was rated excellent by 20%, good by 18%, just OK by 21%, poor by 6%, terrible by 10%, and 26% had no opinion.

"The 38% who rated the speech as excellent or good is the lowest rating of any of the eight speeches Gallup has tested since Bob Dole's acceptance speech in 1996," Dr. Frank Newport wrote.

As an overall result of the Convention, 40% of the people were more likely to vote for Romney versus 38% who were less likely and 22% who said it made no difference.

Among independents, it was a tad better.  36% said they were more likely to support Romney, 33% said less likely, and 30% said no difference.

The overall net positive impact is the least of any convention, Republican or Democratic, since 1984.

Another Gallup Poll found that, not only did Romney not get a "bounce" from the Convention, he may have actually lost a little support.

Before the Convention, Romney held a one-point lead, 47% to 46%.  After the Convention, Obama had a one-point lead, 47% to 46%.

Romney's one-point deficit tied Senator John Kerry's one-point deficit from the 2004 Democratic Convention.  And Senator George McGovern had a zero gain from the 1972 Democratic Convention.

All of the other conventions produced bounces of various sizes for the party's presidential nominee.  The greatest bounce was 16 points that then-Governor Bill Clinton received from the 1992 Democratic Convention.  The second highest was President Jimmy Carter's 10 point bounce following the 1980 Democratic Convention.

In National Review Online, Robert Costa reports that Romney's internal polls "mirror the public polls," but the Governor's allies are not worried.

"I'm not sure state-by-state data is fully cooked yet, and now we have the Democratic Convention," said Mike Murphy.  "So there may be bounces and down bounces. That's why I'm basically uninterested in polling until about September 25, after both conventions, media coverage, and a few weeks of heavy ads by both sides."

It's true, Romney's disappointing post-Convention polls need to be compared with the results of polls following the Democratic Convention to understand how both party gatherings affected the voters.  

But even if the Democrats end up doing poorly too, Romney did not capitalize on this rare opportunity to give a speech directly to the American people.  Biographical data and family stories should have been the appetizers, with concrete proposals of what he would do as president the main course.

If voters are not enamored with Romney's personality, perhaps they could become enthusiastic about his ideas to produce more jobs, balance the budget, replace Obamacare, and provide for energy independence--for starters.

The next big items on the calendar are the presidential debates on October 3, October 16, and October 22 and the vice presidential debate on October 11.

Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan had better come to the debates with their "A Game."

The previous What's Happening with Conservatives and the Tea Party: Senate Control Up for Grabs

The previous What's Happening with Seniors Benefits: Death Tax a Loser

Previous issues of both newsletters.

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