Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans ticked every box on their national convention to-do list except one: explaining clearly how the country gets from here to prosperity.
Romney delivered the best speech of his presidential campaign by far, but devoted just five paragraphs to his domestic agenda, falling far short of detailing how he'll fulfill his promise to create 12 million new jobs in four years.
He had other things to do in the speech, to be sure, and he did them. Job one was to make himself more likable. He's consistently trailed President Barack Obama in favorability - by 5 points in the latest Gallup poll, 9 in the AP-GfK poll.
In the Washington Post-ABC News pre-convention poll, 64 percent of respondents said Obama was "friendly and likable" compared with 25 percent for Romney. Gallup had the margin at 54 percent to 31 percent.
The massive attention paid to this problem in Tampa, Fla., must have produced some improvement. Romney clearly is a devoted, unconditionally loving family man, a hard worker, a church leader and a sincere patriot, though it remains unclear why he makes his wonderful wife, Ann, laugh.
Does he care about ordinary people and their problems? In the Gallup poll, on this score, Obama outstripped Romney 52 percent to 36 percent. On understanding peoples' economic problems, the Post poll showed Obama ahead 49 percent to 37 percent.
So, in his acceptance speech, he generalized that "this Obama economy has crushed the middle class." But besides reciting the grim statistics on unemployment and poverty, he empathized with the worker who "lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits" and had to take "two jobs at nine bucks and fewer benefits" and the homeowner whose house is under water.
Showing a kinder, gentler side, he even said that the one in six citizens living in poverty "are not strangers. These are our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans."
(It certainly will come up at the Democratic convention, though, that the budget backed by Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) will cut Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Plan and other programs for the poor.)
The polls show that Romney is running far behind Obama with Latinos and women. So he was introduced by a Spanish-speaker, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).
Women were given a bevy of prime-time speaking slots and Romney went out of his way to note that his mother was a feminist and that half of his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts was made up of women.
The GOP ticket trails badly, too, with young voters. So one of the best lines of the convention was delivered by Ryan: "College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get on with life."
For independents fed up with the vituperation of this presidential campaign, Romney couched his heavy criticism of Obama - which occupied probably half of his speech - as "disappointment," not anger or contempt.
"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed," he said. "But his promises gave way to disappointment and division."
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