REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: Mitt Romney's 'Chutzpah'

When you cover a major presidential candidate, you don't expect to be lonely. But lonely I was, in the back of the mammoth Gotham Hall in New York City, waiting to hear former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney deliver a speech on the threat of nuclear jihad.

It isn't that I was alone. The room with full of students from Yeshiva University's Sy Syms School of Business, celebrating the schools 20th anniversary. It was just that I was one of the only reporters there, and I was underdressed.

Originally Gov. Romney was supposed to speak at 7:15 p.m., but scheduling changes meant he didn't go on until just before 9 p.m. Maybe that is why there weren't more reporters there.

But it could also be why the Romney campaign is spending $2 million dollars in a national ad campaign to reinforce to people, including reporters, that he is a candidate to be reckoned with, and covered.

Romney opened the speech with a riff on the risks and rewards of the business world:

"It takes some nerve to buy a company from someone else, someone who knows the business inside out, someone who has decided that now is the best time to sell, someone who has hired an investment banker to hawk it to everywhere, and then to think that having paid more than anyone else was willing to pay, you would make a profit on your investment."

Romney said that doing this takes a lot of "chutzpah," but perhaps no less "chutzpah" than a Mormon candidate trying to speak Yiddish in front of a big Jewish crowd.

Romney delivered the speech as the students in the crowd ate their dinners. Their attention wavered as the former governor explained the threat of what he called "violent jihadists."

"We are faced with the horrific proposition that those who speak of genocide are developing the capability to carry it out," he said.

The governor was passionate in his delivery, but most impressive in his use of PowerPoint, clicking through computer slides with much more grace and familiarity than his attempts at Yiddish.

It is an unusual sight to see a candidate so comfortable with that kind of technology. Clearly Mitt Romney has run a few meetings in his day. His delivery is workmanlike and efficient, though he doesn't seem to have the lofty, memorable rhetoric of some candidates past and present. One aide told me that Romney is his own chief speechwriter and does not have a full-time speechwriter on staff. We'll see if that changes.

Romney is spending the entire next week in California, preparing for the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The campaign staff is clearly taking this debate very seriously. They know it is hard to shine on a stage filled with hopefuls, but they also know it is Romney's first chance to stand side by side with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani and try to look and sound presidential.

Romney will take a break from debate prep to make a pilgrimage to Sacramento to meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It seems that this kissing Arnold's ring is now a mandatory stop in the GOP presidential tour.

Did I mention he used the word "chutzpah"?

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