The first and most important piece of information I'd like to share is that this event was the first time we've ever left Ellie with a non-adult, non-family member to be babysat; she's teething and it was her bedtime, no less! So that is quite the feat and jump of faith for a stay-at-home mom with her first child. So Mitt, if you're out there buddy, you owe me one.
We arrive fashionably late for the pre-dinner reception, about 6:30 pm. Which I thought was smart since we know absolutely no one at this shindig. I was able to pick out Jeff Fuller, the 'leader' of the 'Iowans for Romney' group and we go and meet some great people. About 10-15 minutes later Mitt Romney walks in, immediately 100 digital cameras come unholstered from blue suit jackets and everybody's taking advantage of the Kodak moment. I'm pretty excited about the chance to meet this guy, so I'm acting like a kid in a candy store, but I'm not ashamed. Anyway, He's working the room and making the rounds and hugging seniors and the disabled and babies alike (just kidding, there were no babies or disabled). We were the absolute last ones to be able to meet him. It was 7:05 and dinner was supposed to start at 7:00 so the Massachusetts Secret Service is getting kind of antsy and the Iowa GOP guys are trying to shoo us away, but we perservered and got this great shot:
A few other people spoke before Gov. Romney, including Iowan Republican Senator Jim Leach. He spoke a bit about the Middle Eastern Conflict and took me off guard by pointing out that Romney comes from a minority faith and urging everyone to really consider who he is and what he says. They have some state GOP leaders wave flags and start the wave while chanting GOP! GOP! (just kidding!) before Romney spoke. I wish I would have taken notes but here is my summary [I'll provide my scorecard in brackets]:
He starts of with the obligatory joke . . . warming us up :-) But it was a good one [+1]. Introduces and talks about himself and family a bit by talking about deciding to run the Olympics. This segues nicely into what America is about and American values and the American dream. [+2] The meat of his speech that I liked the best is how he spoke about some challenges America faces. I think he listed 5 and I believe they are as follows:
- Our Oil Addiction. This was the first time it really hit home with me that regular joes can help change foreign policy and world relations literally by finding ways to (1) cut our oil use, i.e. buying a scooter and riding it to work instead of the Ford F350 and (2) get serious about developing alternative fuel sources. [+5 because he motivated me to do something at home].
- Middle East. Spoke about his trips to Afghanistan and Iraq and meeting soldiers and later calling their families one by one. And he specifically mentioned how the Iraqi govt went to Universities in Iraq and asked them what they could do for them to help them get on board with supporting the new country. The list they returned to the gov't started with, "let our professors travel out of this country to visit and learn from other experts and conferences, etc." So he mentioned the freedoms being introduced there. [+3, he seems smart enough to try his best in the never-ending middle eastern mess]
- China - this broke down into Education and Economics. They are educating engineers and other specialists at an amazing pace, especially compared to us. I believe his numbers were something like of the 150 new chemical plants announced over the past year, over 50 of them are slated for China and the US has only 1. Not only losing out on things to China but about the opportunity it is for American businesses. [+2.5, did not know that, he's right, we need to get serious about this]
- Debt. Washington spends WAY too much money!!!! [+10] This is a beef of mine so it gets lots of bonus points. He mentioned pork-barrel projects (which Republicans and Demos are equally guilty of), etc. and said we need to give the President the line item veto (and something else that I forget) if we ever want to get serious about balancing the budget. [+5, a few more extra points because I'd love to get that part of the contract with america back].
- American Values Under Attack. The premise that America is great because America is good. [+5, kudos].
As I heard the female gasps from the audience as he told the story it struck me, "this guy is such a politician." I'm not really one to wear my emotions on my sleeve so sappy stories like this, I appreciate, but usually roll my eyes at the same time.
Now, here is where I'm at right now, though: my first impression of Romney was that he's a smarmy politician who is just looking out for himself and looking to advance himself. Then I did some research and saw all the amazing things this guy has done. I was very very impressed when faced with the facts. Now meeting him and hearing him speak does confirm that this guy is a polished politician . . . but is that a bad thing? To actually win a presidential race wouldn't a qualified candidate have to be? I don't know. But since that's his only strike against him, I'd say he's ahead of the game. He really seems like the kind of conservative a moderate like me could love!
Final Score: 30.5
this guy just might make it in '08; my lucky number is 31 and that rounds up nicely, doesn't it?? spooky.