This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," September 1, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Mitt Romney's big night. The GOP's nominee makes his case to the American people and gives us a glimpse of the campaign to come.
Plus, from Paul Ryan to Marco Rubio to Condoleezza Rice, the other big moments from the RNC.
And as President Obama gets set to make his case for four more years, our panel previews next week's Democratic convention in Charlotte.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, R-FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans --
-- and to heal the planet.
-- My promise is to help you and your family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, bringing down the house with that line in Tampa Thursday night. There's no question it was the most important speech of his career. So how did he do and what did it tell about the campaign to come.
Let's welcome the Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
Dan, one of the main goals of the convention was to improve the image of Mitt Romney with Independent voters, undecided voters. Did they accomplish that?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST, DEPUTY EDITOR: They most certainly accomplished, Paul. They have proven, I think, with all of these testimonials from people, that Mitt Romney is a good person, a great guy, and even a caring businessman.
Now, this is a political event. So, why did they spend so much time doing that? They did that because the Obama campaign and Democratic surrogates had spent the previous four months --
GIGOT: And $100 million.
HENNINGER: Dumping $100 million worth of TV commercials saying precisely the opposite. The Romney campaign has brought themselves back to even in the image wars with President Obama. What only skimmed in his speech were the policy wars.
GIGOT: I want to get to that, but let's talk about that speech.
HENNINGER: As a result of that, the campaign is going to pitch forward and going to be decided in the debates and the hundreds of millions of TV ads.
GIGOT: What about the speech itself, Dorothy? Did it -- it obviously was 50 percent auto biographical by the candidates himself, following all the testimony from other people, many very moving and revealing and very informative. Did he spend too much time on biography?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I think he did, but he does that anyway. And I just want to say that I think he should leave the gender gap alone for a couple of months. After Election Day, he can take it up.
The real issue is that we saw the speech in pieces. Some of it was very good. Some was very moving. That was when he moved out of the biography. He had one other line that they could have used and that was the line where he said I'm going to begin my president with a jobs tour. President Obama began his presidency with an apology tour.
GIGOT: You like that apology tour?
GIGOT: What about, Jason -- there's been a lot of discussion about the understated quality of the speech. There weren't any great rhetorical lines and no Greek columns.
JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: it was good, but underwhelming. And I suspect that might have been by design. We saw in the opening clip, Romney contrasting Obama's grandiosity, rhetorical grandiosity with plain spokenness. Obama says he's going to heal the planet. I just want to help you and your families. I think that's what he's going for and he succeeded.
GIGOT: Kim, I want to get to a point here, getting to Dorothy's point about the gender gap and appeal to the women's votes and get your response.
Let's show that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff. Half of my cabinet and senior officials were women. And in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Kim, is that the way to win over more women?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: I think it is. The Romney campaign does not want to spend days getting pulled into these Obama diversionary arguments about women's pay and contraception. At the same time, they can't simply not respond to this because those attacks have hurt him among women. So, the strategy which you saw this week was to instead just show how silly these attacks are, to highlight that this is a guy who has surrounded himself with talented women and to also show his personal side, his five children, his wife, and to give a sense that he knows some of the ordinary, average concerns of working moms and others.
RILEY: I agree with what Kim is saying to some extent. But the right can't criticize the left on politics and then practice it in the way that we saw Romney doing there. The best way for Romney to respond to whether there's a war on women is to put strong women up there, like he did on stage, testifying to what Romney thinks about the world and his policies and how he's going to help the entire country and women. And we saw Condi Rice and Susanna Martinez up there.
RILEY: And they were not there just because they were women. They were up there because they were women who agree with Mitt Romney's policies.
GIGOT: Dan, to get back to your original point with the policy, here is my problem with the speech. I didn't hear how he would improve the economy. There was so much biography and discussion of other things that he didn't really focus on policy issues except at the end, almost as an afterthought. and we listed the five priorities. He didn't defend his tax plan or tax reform or make a class against class warfare. Next week, in Charlotte, you're going to see the Democrats run through that hole. And they did not inoculate themselves on that.
HENNINGER: Yes, Paul. And not only that, but next week, in Charlotte, President Obama is going to give his acceptance speech and reiterate his policy proposals. He plans to spend money to pay for people's education. He's going to pay for health care when you need it. We may not disagree with that, but these are specific policy ideas --
HENNINGER: -- directed at a very anxious electorate and it has to be countered with something from the Romney campaign.
GIGOT: This is what that I think that swing voters want to hear very tangibly. They know Mitt Romney -- certainly they know now, Mitt Romney is a hell of a guy. What they want to know is, how is she going to improve their lives.
RABINOWITZ: And they -- they get hints of him, when they see the choice he makes in the speech. Do we really have to know how it feels to see all of your children in your bedroom with the wife and how glorious it is and how you would like to relive all that? That kind of choice, of spending personal exposure time, instead of how are we going to get those. How many millions of jobs have you promised? That's the question.
RILEY: I think a lot of this Romney speech was aimed at Independent voters in those swing states. He wanted to assure them it's OK to have buyer's remorse about voting for Obama four years ago. It doesn't make you a bad person.
GIGOT: And that's a good strategy, but the missing agenda, I think, is a risk.
Still ahead, if Mitt Romney's job was to make the case for his presidency, Paul Ryan's was to make a case against a second Obama term. Did he get the job done?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The man assumed office almost four years ago. Isn't it about time he assumed responsibility?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: The Republicans vice president nominee, Paul Ryan, had his turn in the spotlight Wednesday night and used to deliver a withering attack on the Obama presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: I've never seen opponents so silent about their record and so desperate to keep their power. They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. It began with a financial crisis. It ends with a job crisis. It began with a housing crisis they alone didn't cause. It ends with a housing crisis they didn't correct. It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now, all that's left is a presidency adrift.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: So, Kim, Paul Ryan's big introduction to the American public. How did he do?
STRASSEL: Well, conventions always devote one evening to going after the opponent and usually the vice-presidential candidate does that. What the GOP had in Paul Ryan is he has a certain optimistic delivery that made him come across as very devastating rather than mean.
Just to get back to the last discussion, his other big job for the evening was to layout some of the policy issues and distinctions between the two campaigns. It would have been nicer to have had that for Mr. Romney as well, but to the extent that was Paul Ryan's job, he also did that effectively.
GIGOT: Well, but, Kim, I heard that on Medicare, there was a real attack on the Obama care and Medicare, but I didn't hear any defense by Ryan from the tax plan, for example. No case for tax reform. He didn't make a pro growth case, economic case, as much as I know he believes in person.
STRASSEL: Yes, and that's the real issue that they're going to have to address this fall. So far, it's been a lot of doom and gloom news, saying we're on the wrong path and we've got to fix things. They've got to start pivoting and talking about the real way out of this hole is getting an economy that grows again and brings in the tax revenue to help with the spending issues.
GIGOT: Jason, what else struck you about the week?
RILEY: First of all, Ryan gave the speech at a convention. In my view, he hit it out of the park. Anyone who didn't know he was a serious person knows now. I don't think he's going to fade in the spotlight like Sarah Palin did four years ago.
GIGOT: He's a long-distance runner.
RILEY: I think that Chris Christie also gave -- the New Jersey governor gave a very powerful speech.
GIGOT: Not everybody agrees with you on that one. In fact, most people disagree. They think he blew it.
RILEY: I think his point on Obama's leadership, the unwillingness to say no, is a liability in a leader. And Obama is unwilling to treat voters like adults. I think he drove that point home. And I think it's a very effective attack on Obama, more effective attack than saying Obama is in over his head.
GIGOT: Dorothy, what else -- who impressed you the most among the non-Romney actors here?
RABINOWITZ: Among the non-Romney actors, Marco Rubio. Actually because I got to see he did in one minute, in terms of personal revelation, what Romney could not do.
GIGOT: What he did in 20 minutes.
RABINOWITZ: Yes. Exactly that. Yes, they say he's not presidential for a few minutes, but you can see the ease and the naturalness with which he discusses his identity and the magic of being in America, and the parents -- I won't quote it. But anybody who was not transported by the combination of things he talked to, and that toughness of his, which never becomes impossibly rude, but is unassailable as a weapon.
GIGOT: One of the themes this week, Dan, seemed to be the rehabilitation of the Republican party, or maybe rebranding is the better way to put it, with younger people on stage, with a more diverse group of people, and with governors who projected -- basically said, here is our record. We're creating jobs, we're making the change, we're doing things. And so, this -- these Democratic attacks that basically say, look, you're just an attack party. That's not true, look at our record.
HENNINGER: Yes, I think the big winner out of this convention was the Republican Party. And they did a very good job of presenting themselves. And it was in fact a reaction to the negative propaganda that the Democrats had -- they had to answer it.
HENNINGER: It turns out they really have a great group of younger politicians. They're reform minded. Governor Martinez of New Mexico, a wonderful story. And so, I think that --
GIGOT: She was a revelation.
HENNINGER: All of the parties try to hit and appeal to the middle class in America, and the Republicans showed they're no longer the parties of bankers and real estate developers and country club types. It looked like real Americans.
GIGOT: Kim, was that a big part of their strategy?
STRASSEL: It was exactly their strategy. And I think a certain amount of credit needs to go to Mr. Romney here. Conventions can be very biographical and hagiographic on the guy in question. they wanted to highlight the deep bench that the GOP has here, talk about the reform policies going on out in the states and present a party itself that's ready to get down to business and institute new ideas. And that was certainly what they were aiming for.
GIGOT: Wasn't there a strategy goal, too, Kim? For example, in Ohio, which has seen falling unemployment. They need to point -- Obama is going to try to take credit for that. Romney needs to point out, look, this is a Republican governor whose policies are helping a great deal with that.
STRASSEL: That's absolutely right. They're going to be drawing a clear distinction between those things that they believe their Republican governors have done, the budget reforms they've done, education reforms they've done, and helping the economy, and then making the argument, to the extent that the states aren't doing better, that it's Obama's fault.
GIGOT: Briefly, Dorothy, Clint Eastwood?
RABINOWITZ: Clint Eastwood, I thought he hit it out of the ballpark. Whatever anybody says. He put him up there --
RABINOWITZ: But let me say something else. Even that renegade, Arthur Davis, who became --
GIGOT: Artur Davis.
RABINOWITZ: Artur Davis. He was magnificent. And when you get a minor bit player enhancing all of the performances there, that's a good thing.
GIGOT: Yes. Clint Eastwood, kind of an independent-minded voter, just making up his mind they need to fire the president.
When we come back, now it's the Democrat's parties. What President Obama and his party have planned for Charlotte. Will it be enough to convince voters to give him for more years?
GIGOT: With Tampa behind us, all eyes turn to Charlotte, North Carolina, where President Obama and fellow Democrats make the case next week for four more years.
Jason, what do you expect to hear next week out of the Democrats?
RILEY: Well, first, Paul, you're going to hear the phrase Romney-Ryan so often, you'll think it's one word.
GIGOT: Because of the Ryan budget?
RILEY: President Obama wanted to run against Congress. With a Congressman on the ticket, he is certain to do that.
But essentially Obama's strategy has been, I inherited a mess, but for my stimulus and other policies, we'd be in a bigger hole, and why give the ball back to the team that put us in this mess in the first place. And I think you'll hear variations on those themes throughout the week.
GIGOT: What about, Dorothy, the questions Republicans raised again and again of collapsed expectation, unfulfilled promises, all the grandiosity of four years ago, and now we're stuck with this mess? How do we respond to that?
RABINOWITZ: I think he can do the same -- use the same strategy he's been using now, which is to say, it's not there. We have accomplished this, we've had --
GIGOT: We've made this amount of progress?
RABINOWITZ: Yes, we did build this essentially, and then ignore that we've been opposed by every level by the Republicans. They have been in the way. And that kind of defiance in my view, defiance of reality, which will be their answer. they will say, we have done this.
GIGOT: Kim, one of the big targets for the Democrats, do you think? Jason mentioned the Ryan budget, that's will be a target. What about the tax plan of Romney?
STRASSEL: Yes, you're going to see three things, a class warfare argument that the tax policy is in, the Obama argument which we've seen that Romney is just a corporate raider. He wants to strip money from the middle class and give it to rich friends. You'll see a big Medi-scare attack on the Ryan reforms for Medicare and Social Security. And you'll see a big attack on the Republicans vis-a-vis women. And again, these arguments that they are almost like Todd Akin in Missouri.
GIGOT: They will have so many women on stage, I'm surprised you haven't been invited to appear.
They'll make this such a central theme.
What about the image of the Democratic Party and the image of the Republicans?
HENNINGER: The Republicans convey a positive image of themselves. I don't think you're going to see that next week. This is why. The Obama Democrats essentially were the party of the Democratic left and they captured the party from the Clinton centrists. The essence of the Democratic left and Progressives is to complain about American society. They see it as a place of victims and people shafted by the system. And I think --
GIGOT: Is that a winner?
HENNINGER: You're going to hear more carping and complaining about the unfairness of America next week because that's in their DNA, that's the way they see the system.
GIGOT: Yes. All because of business and Romney's friends.
HENNINGER: But it does not present a positive image to the American people.
RILEY: I think another thing that may not be a winner but you nevertheless is hear a lot about is Obama-care, particularly those parts of the health care plan that have taken effect. Children being able to stay on parent's insurance up to a certain age. They'll push that.
GIGOT: So they'll push that, that -- the two or three positive parts of Obama-care that poll well, even though the Republicans really did a pretty good job this week of taking apart Obama-care. Do you think they'll talk about it?
RILEY: I think they will. And of course, that's a huge vulnerability for Romney going into the debates. I don't think they'll shy away from talking about Obama-care.
One thing we haven't mentioned here? Second term agenda.
What's the case that Obama is going to make, Kim, Dorothy, for a second term agenda?
First you, Kim.
STRASSEL: Well, he's going to revive some of the retread arguments he put out last year, which is mostly going to be more spending. I'm going to pay for your kids to go to college. I'm going to -- let's put more stimulus money into construction jobs. That's about all they've got. and do not expect to see any big policy initiatives put forward here. They don't have any.
RABINOWITZ: Well, what can he say? I'm going to be former friable and offer the Soviet Union -- the former Soviet Union more leisure --
GIGOT: Another reset, you mean?
RABINOWITZ: Another reset. But I think we're going to hear a little about abortion and about the assault on women, and the fact that we are going to save a woman's right to choice.
GIGOT: And so, that women's issue --
GIGOT: I think we may also see windmills and the Chevy Volt on stage --
-- for the green jobs before it's over. Maybe one of them will speak, I don't know, as they try to make the case in Iowa and Michigan that the auto bailout helped.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week.
Kim, first to you.
STRASSEL: This is a miss to Ron Paul for being a bit of a sore loser. It was Mr. Paul's decision to run as a Republican this year that finally gave him the perk to have a more visible and successful campaign. And the Republicans in Tampa paid him more note than any other of Mr. Romney's opponents. There was a video tribute, his son spoke, some of his ideas were in the GOP platform. And yet, Mr. Paul has refused to endorse the man who won his party's nomination. Mitt Romney may not be his ideal version of a president, but he's a lot closer than President Obama.
GIGOT: All right. Jason?
RILEY: This is a miss for Pat Quinn, the Democratic governor of Illinois. This week S&P downgraded the state's credit rating. It's not addressing its budget deficits and pension liabilities. Ironically, some surrounding states, like Ohio and Wisconsin, are effectively addressing the issue. Their governors are speaking in Tampa this week. I hope that Pat Quinn was watching.
GIGOT: I don't know that he's going to making a guest appearance in Charlotte.
GIGOT: We'll see.
All right, Dan?
HENNINGER: Paul, there was a lot of patriotism at the Republican convention. And a piece of that is returning to Yale University this fall. For the first time in 40 years, ROTC is back on campus at Yale. These students are coming from the naval submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. And I should add that Columbia and Harvard are also going to have ROTC back on campus. So however the divided the country may be right now, this is a good thing.
GIGOT: It's extraordinary. Because that means -- ROTC was last on Yale campus before I went to college, which is pretty extraordinary when you think about this ancient Mariner.
Remember, if you have your own "Hit or Miss," please send it to us at jer@FOXnews.com and follow us on Twitter, @JERonFNC.
That's it for this edition of the "Journal Editorial Report." Thanks to my panel, especially to you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. We hope to see you right here next week.
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