Mitt Romney has held public office exactly once, for a single term, during which the state he governed ranked 46th among the 50 states in job growth, with a rate less than a tenth of the national average during those years. So, you might think it odd that the Republican Party considers him their best spokesperson on the issue.
But what choice do they have? Any Republican associated with the Bush Administration or Congress is considered guilty by association in the current economic crisis -- as a cabbie said to me this morning, 'how much worse could Obama really do?' The candidate himself has admitted his own ignorance on economic matters.
So Mitt's the man, and he got to headline today's Republican press conference about the economy, and how totally horrible it would be under Obama.
Make no mistake, though, this was all about Mitt. The press conference was scheduled much later than normal, at a more press-friendly hour, and special effort was made to advertise it. It was a media mob compared to the normal sparse attendance at these things, with an overflow crowd of at least 70 journalists, including a few serious ones. (CNN's Dana Bash, eg.) After all, until Friday this man could be the vice presidential candidate.
There were others on the dais with Mitt, but they were given little attention, particularly by Mitt himself. Mitt made sure that, when his and McCain's opinions differ, that Mitt explained Mitt's positions as well as McCain's -- for instance, on bailing out the auto industry, a position Mitt locked himself into during his week campaigning as a populist in Michigan earlier this year.
If in fact McCain hasn't finalized his VP choice, or at least hasn't informed Romney, this was Mitt's last audition as attack dog. He's a great attack dog. Earlier this week I prompted a few Massachusetts delegates who were active in the Shannon O'Brien gubernatorial campaign to reminisce about Romney's unique skills at assaulting an opponent, in every way, at every angle, without suffering backlash, and with extraordinary discipline. (O'Brien herself once told me that Romney never says anything in public that he hasn't practiced in front of consultants, down to the nuances of tone and facial expression -- probably only a slight exagerration.)
Romney went after Obama pretty good under the theme of rhetoric versus reality -- that you can't judge based on what Obama says, or what's in his written proposals, because those are sly deceptions unrelated to his real history of actions, speeches and votes. It's not a bad line of attack, and Romney does it very well. Unfortunately for the GOP, it doesn't change the basic wisdom of my cabbie.