A clearly tired Mitt Romney gave a lackluster performance in the Rochester Opera House. This was Romney light – an abridged version of the stirring rallies earlier this week. Rochester, NH, USA. 8th January 2012
: Five minutes to go and Rochester Opera House is filling up nicely. The scene is nicely set – a huge American flag forms the backdrop against which is set a three tier riser comprising a representative cross-section of white New Hampshire voters.
There is a buzz of expectation in the air – law enforcement officials walk watchfully up and down the aisles, nerdy camera guys in faded golf caps check their equipment, bored children hang limply on their parents, next door neighbors chat idly and the city flag adorns one of the theater’s ornate banisters.
Built in 1941, the venue has a cozy, antiquated, near vaudeville feeling. There are three empty bar stools on the stage and we half expect that they will soon to be filled by lesser Italian tenors.
Stage right, a large white sign reads: Romney – Believe in America. Indeterminate, jingle jangle pop-rock makes our feet tap… involuntarily.
Senator Kelly Ayotte is wearing a blue jacket and black pants. She sounds a bit hoarse, too many fags, too much booze. She trusts Mitt Romney to keep us safe. She knows the importance of military power, her husband used to fly A-10 tank busters – the crowd cheers with frenzied, near religious zeal.
Next up, Governor Tim Pawlenty. He is a master of rhetoric. He asks if we are ready for Romney. We are! And New Hampshire is ready to “catapult Mitt Romney towards the White House.” It is an unusual, almost alarming visual – right out Looney Toons.
They hike the music – Born Free – people stand up, photographs of Romney’s perfect coiffeur appear on crystal i-phones.
Romney is lower key today – subdued almost. He talks of the gift of being born in America. He talks about family -- from Wales and from Mexico. He talks about how wife Anne’s father was an invalided coalminer.
Switching his focus to the job at hand, Romney underscores his ability to keep a firm control of the purse strings. He is a successful businessman, helped start Staples, stocked the shelves the night before the opening day. By comparison, the President is a spend-thrift - throwing cash at solar companies. He is a nice guy but he “just doesn’t get it.”
Dressed in a smart checked shirts, Dockers and buffed brown shoes, Romney tells us that that America is special and that he doesn’t want to see the nation turned into a European-style welfare state. “We are a hard-working people. We like work,” he says.
Romney asks for veterans to raise their hands so we can see them. We give them a clap in recognition of their service and potential sacrifice.
Now it’s time to wrap up – wrap up something that never really got going – Romney light. He looks jaded, an old guy suddenly. Last night’s debate has diminished him, made him sheepish, somehow. He thanks his supporters, hopes for votes on Tuesday, blesses America.