ANALYSIS: The most important speech of Mitt Romney's political career so far was solid, but not bold. If picking Paul Ryan as his running mate was supposed to turn the conversation to big, bold ideas and hard truths — the Romney speech played it safe.
In fact, Romney mocked the promises made by candidate Obama to save the planet in 2008. His presidency, stressed Romney, wouldn't stop the oceans from rising, but it would create jobs, expand energy production and prevent tax increases.
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," Romney told the crowd after making a State of the Union-like entrance in Tampa. "My promise is to help you and your family."
He went after the president with a velvet glove, not a bare fist. He was speaking less to the folks in the Tampa Bay Times Forum than to the Wal-Mart moms and the suburban and ex-urban voters who supported Obama in 2008 — and still like him personally — but are disappointed in his record in office. His most important line to these voters: "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something."
As top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens, who also happens to be the chief author of the candidate's speech, put it in an e-mail exchange with ABC News after all the balloons had dropped and confetti had landed on the floor of the convention hall: "It was a speech focused on America not just the hall. It was a speech to win an election. And I think he just knocked it out of the park."
Romney's challenge now: Giving voters a reason to vote for him, not just against Obama. He laid the foundation for this last night. But it is the debates where he'll have to complete the sale.