Samuel Coates, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, reports on Mitt Romney's resignation speech.
Talk show host Laura Ingraham gave Romney a strong introduction, saying that he was a security conservative, a social conservative and an economic conservative and that she was proud to be the only introducer with the job of introducing the conservative candidate. She also spoke of how Reagan battled on to the convention when people were saying he should stand down for the good of the party (curiously, so did Mitt!). I wonder if she was told?
Romney walked on to the stage to mass placard waving and cheering. He spoke of the "unique" sacrifice America had made in the cause of
liberty in the 21st century - only taking enough land after its
victories to bury its dead - and that if it didn't change course it
could be the new France (crowd boos). There were several nods to Christians, he said the majority of
Americans believed in God or at least in "a purpose-driven life" (the
title of a bestselling Christian book), and criticised intolerance of such faith.
He spoke in particularly strong terms about:
- fighting the "culture-killing poison of dependency"
- how "depressing the private sector depresses the well-being of all"
- the danger of China and India overtaking America in the same way America did the UK and France
- being held hostage by the oil needed from "the likes of Putin, Chavez and Ahmadinejad"
- getting the dividend bit of Bill Clinton's "peace dividend", but not the peace bit
He said he disagreed with John McCain on a lot of things but that he was absolutely right on doing whatever it takes in Iraq and the fight against radical, violent Islam. I half-expected a slight jibe to follow this concession, but it didn't come. He criticised Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for wanting retreat and defeat. Then, to a gasping crowd that had been giving him a rapturous reception, he said that continuing to stand made it easier for one of those two to win. That because he loved America and because he "cannot allow the next President to retreat in the face of evil extremism", he felt he must stand aside. If his candidacy was only about him, he went on, he would have continued.
In short, he did an Obi Wan Kenobi, and in doing so endeared himself to those who, like me, saw him as little more than a politician's politician. It was a great speech. If a British Conservative had said the things he said about the blend of issues that he focused on, I'd be right behind them.
He'll have his eyes on 2012 now. He's set himself up well.