Romney-Ryan 2012!

This morning I had the pleasure of attending the rally in Norfolk, VA at which Mitt Romney introduced his running mate for the 2012 election. Speculation had flown around the Internet for days, as pundits made their case for or against this or that candidate. There were many attractive prospects this year, including my governor Bob McDonnell.

And…Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his Vice President. Word hit early this morning, from what I can tell. I woke up at 7:49 to Twitter all abuzz, and the news that Romney was making this announcement at 9:00 a.m, a quarter mile from my doorstep (as the crow flies). You’ve never seen a man go from pajamas to a comfortable and stylish linen suit in less time. (It’s quite humid here, today, so if linen was not appropriate I do apologize)

I raced to Norfolk and queued up to get into the event. The news said that people had been waiting since 5:30. I believed it.

The event was at that wavy gray building on the right. Way back there. Yeah.

As I stood in line I was suddenly struck by the realization (more like informed by some kindly Twitter souls – I am sorta dumb) that this event required a ticket. Here allow me to pause and thank the good people at Eventbrite, who handled tickets for the event and whose mobile app works beautifully. I registered and showed my iPhone to the greeter, and got in. It’s the 21st century.

The rally took place at Nauticus, where lies berthed the battleship USS Wisconsin. Quite an imposing backdrop.

She was well-appointed in bunting of the most patriotic sort.

I hate standing in crowds. Milling about. Sweating. But I like taking pictures of myself.

It quickly became apparent that there would be very few decent vantages directly in front of the stage. I moved off to the right, which was less suffocating.

Just as I took my spot, on came my favorite governor, His Excellency the Right Honorable Bob McDonnell. True Story: I was at the guv’s inaugural ball when he won the very close race for Attorney General. It was held at the Chrysler Museum. I stood next to Pat Robertson all night. Very impressive until you realize I was working the event as a security guard. Ah, college.

Gov. McDonnell warms up the crowd, gives a shout-out to the troops. His daughter is a veteran.

As McDonnell’s introduction of Romney built to the candidate’s entrance, the crowd became more energetic. There was a perceptible energy, and despite a few boos for President Obama’s economic record (which is, if I’m being charitable, distinctly uneven) it was positive. People were whooping, clapping, cheering as Mitt Romney disembarked from the Wisconsin to take the stage.

“Today is a good day for America, and there are better days ahead.”

Romney began by complimenting Virginia, which was only right since Virginia far outstrips all other states in dignity and honor, in my personal estimation. When he announced Paul Ryan would be his running mate, the crowd erupted. He moved on to outline his vision for America, being sure to mention the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and energy independence for North America. (Transcript here: Romney)

And with a small verbal mistake (charmingly acknowledged and corrected a moment later) Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan to the nation.

“Wow! Hey. And right in front of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, huh? Man!”

Ryan, who has been depicted in commercials as someone who wants to literally toss old ladies in wheelchairs off of cliffs, immediately made it clear he is not scary. He introduced himself, his family, and talked about his life (transcript here).

One crucial (though not explicit) distinction I think Ryan made in his speech is that there is a moral dimension to the failed economic policies of the last few years. It’s more than just numbers and graphs.

Over the years I have seen and heard from a lot of families, from a lot of those who are running small businesses and from people who are in need.

But what I’ve heard lately, that’s what troubles me the most. There’s something different in their voice, in their words.What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures. I hear some people say that this is just the new normal.

Higher unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal.

YES. This resonated with me and I think it’s a message that will resonate with many. Whether you are young or old, you have most likely run headfirst into the realities of life under this economy. You can’t really expect that job after college. You can’t make business plans with much confidence because you never know whether there will be a crushing tax or a regulation coming down the pike. Perhaps the Labor Department will attempt to outlaw farm chores for children, or the EPA will regulate dust. Across all walks of life, “diminished dreams”have become a part of life.

“If you have a small business, you DID build that.”

We don’t often hear the moral arguments for free enterprise. I think Paul Ryan is equipped to make those arguments, to make the case that big business and big government go hand in hand. To raise those questions in a non-threatening way and invite people to think.

As Ryan was closing the speech, he said the following:

The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this:

We won’t duck the tough issues … we will lead!

We won’t blame others … we will take responsibility!

We won’t replace our founding principles … we will reapply them!

We will honor you, our fellow citizens, by giving you the right and opportunity to make the choice:

What kind of country do we want to have?

What kind of people do we want to be?

To this, the crowd responded with a resounding, “FREE.” It was good to be a part of that moment.

The speech concluded, and the candidates began to make the rounds shaking hands. I began to make my way outside rather than join the throng hoping for an instant of meaningless physical contact.

Outside, a group of Obama supporters had been stationed – God only knows how long. These folks are no less enthused about their man than I am mine. I like to think they have no less love for the America that is, and the America that can be.

“Four More Years!” No thanks, guys.

One of them called a passerby an “asshole,” for some reason, but for the most part they were entirely civil.

Their presence is a reminder that Virginia is going to be a tough fight for Romney. Likewise, the general election will be no cakewalk. This was a good day, but it’s a long road ahead.

We’ll get there.

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