CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A steady rain might have forced Mitt Romney’s speech indoors, but it didn’t dampen his message.
Speaking within sight of Bank of America Stadium, where President Obama will address his party during the Democratic National Convention here in early September, an unusually feisty Romney harshly criticized the president, using excerpts from Obama's keynote address in Denver four years ago to emphasize how his policies have failed the American people.
“We’re a trusting people, we’re a hopeful people, but we’re not dumb,” Romney said to a cheering crowd of about 200 people. “We’re not going to fall for the same lines from the same person just because it’s in a difference place. We’re going to recognize that it’s time that we’ve learned who Barack Obama is and what he’s capable of doing, that he’s over his head and he’s swimming in the wrong direction.”
The campaign came to North Carolina, a potential swing state this fall, to highlight what it says are the differences between Obama’s hopeful rhetoric from 2008 and the harsh reality facing Americans today. At 9.9 percent, North Carolina's unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country, and the state still has upwards of 450,000 people out of work.
Billed as a “pre-buttal” to Obama’s visit in four months, Romney's speech included a litany of complaints against the presdient – from a weak economy to rising unemployment to a ballooning national debt – each time saying the president would gloss over that problem during his speech.
“He’s been president three and a half years – three and a half years. And you list those issues that he described in that speech of his – he hasn’t fixed any one of them,” Romney quipped. “He has failed by the measurements he set. You won’t hear that at his convention, but you’re gonna hear it at ours.”
Romney stayed on the offensive during the 20-minute speech, pointing out why Obama’s policies were hurting America while remaining light on details on how his policies would differ, a criticism he has faced throughout the campaign.
The speech today is the beginning of a larger strategy the campaign is undertaking, first reported by the Washington Post, called “bracketing” – chasing their opponents around the country, offering pre- and re-buttals to each campaign stop.
In a statement, the Romney campaign's communications director, Gail Gitcho, said, “our campaign is going to go toe-to-toe and post up against the Obama machine every day to help get the message out that Mitt Romney will be able to deliver what this president could not — and that’s a more prosperous America.”
However, this strategy isn’t without its problems: It’s incredibly expensive, difficult and time consuming, often requiring the candidate and his surrogates to be in multiple places at once, and it can lead to a lack of one’s own clear message. By spending the majority of their time responding to and criticizing the president, Romney could sacrifice forming a coherent positive message. And for a candidate already struggling with likeability issues – recent polls still show a majority of Americans view Romney unfavorably - it could exacerbate those problems.
Nonetheless, the strategy continues – Romney will hold a rally in Ohio tomorrow, following a speech by Obama there today.