Ron Paul went first, reiterating the connection between economic policy and freedom for all. As usual he’s right on economics, but he does it with a tone of a slightly exasperated professor saying, “Why don’t you people get it yet?”
Rick Santorum went last, agreeing that the stakes are high, but trying to convince that he is “the” conservative in the race, and that he is electable. He urges South Carolina not to settle for a moderate, but to do what they did in 1980, voting for Reagan before he was the Reagan we know. It was well said, but it was essentially the small message: “South Carolina, vote for me.”
Romney’s closing statement went third, but I’ve saved his for last. He used the moment so beautifully to talk to Americans about beautiful, positive American ideas. There was a piece by Jon Kraushar from November, called “Want to Know Who Will Win in 2012: Look for the Smile.” I’ve been thinking about his observations since then. At that moment, the two most positive, smiling candidates were Romney and Gingrich. Then, in December, as Gingrich began to be a serious contender, he got angrier and more erratic, and then started sinking in the polls. He may maintain momentum long enough for South Carolina, but if the cheerfulness theory holds, I don’t expect him to make much further progress.
Santorum is someone I often like. Ideologically according to a couple of those charts where you compare your beliefs and see who should be your candidate, I align with him about 97% of the time, and Romney only maybe 96% (both seem surprisingly close both to me and each other). But Santorum, coming always from behind, often seems tense and pressured in debates--better among townhalls, I think. Romney almost always seems cool under pressure, and is by nature pleasant, cheerful, and positive. He’s extraordinarily hard working and detail oriented, but he appears at ease. There’s something Reaganesque about that, even if he isn’t as media savvy as Reagan, who came from that world.
Anyway, Romney’s closing statement is a nice moment I want to remember from this campaign, regardless of outcome. Here is the transcript, as well as the two-minute video. Enjoy.
I agree with a lot of what these last two men have just said; I think this is an absolutely critical election. I but believe that the founders took very careful thought in the preparation of the words of our Declaration of Independence, that said that the Creator had endowed us with certain unalienable rights. Not the state, but the Creator. Among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And by virtue of those words, the pursuit of happiness, this became the place on the planet where we were able to pursue our dreams as we might choose. People came here from all over the world, wishing to pursue happiness in their own way. And that has made us the most powerful economic engine in the world, where we can guard freedom because our military is the strongest in the world, coming from that powerful economic engine.
This president’s changing that. He’s changing the very nature of America. He’s turning us, not, from a merit society, an opportunity society, where people are free to choose their own course. But instead he’s making us an entitlement society, where people think they’re entitled to what other people have, where government takes from some and gives to others. That has never been the source of American greatness.
We need to return to the principles upon which this country was founded. Our president said, I think in a very revealing way, that he wants to fundamentally transform America. He’s wrong. We need to restore the values that made America the hope of the earth. And I understand those values. I will do everything in my power to restore those values by keeping America free, by fighting for free enterprise, by standing up to President Obama and pointing out how he has made it almost impossible for our private sector to reboot. I will get America working again. I will defeat Barak Obama and keep America as it’s always been, the shining city on a hill. Thank you.