Today, Mitt Romney made what his campaign is billing as a "closing argument" on the economy. You can watch video of the speech at CSPAN. Turns out, the speech is basically a potpourri of every Romney speech ever, full of "facts" about energy independence and taxes that President Obama himself refuted at the debates. (One of the pillars of the Romney plan to get the economy to "come roaring back" is to stand up to teachers' unions. How cutting teacher salaries and benefits will affect the economy on such a huge scale was never explained.) There were, finally, no new facts and figures. No specific policies. It was beyond insulting to claim that this wet tissue paper was the Romney campaign's best, most compelling argument for the economy, but the crowd ate it up, anyway.
The only modification from the speeches I've heard Romney give for the last year and a half is the inclusion of his new, late-term campaign slogan, "Big Change." Romney used the word "change" a whole lot during this speech. At the eighteen-minute mark of the video, Romney begins machine-gunning the word "change" all over the crowd through the end of his speech, and the audience eats it up. They can't get enough change.
All this change talk is a shameless attempt to emulate the Obama 08 campaign, but it's probably a smart decision for Romney's speechwriters. The last three major national elections have been change elections: 2006 brought the Democrats to power in the House. 2008 brought the Democrats to power in the White House. 2010 brought Republicans back to power in the House. Again. With such a partisan political environment in government and in the media, pretty much the only choice left for the electorate is a binary, either/or proposition. Compromises are presented as antithetical to the very idea of politics, which encourages voters to vote for the other side if they're unhappy. (And voters are always unhappy.) So the electorate flops back and forth between "either" and "or" in every election, desperately hoping that one of those choices will actually work. For a change. That's the real reason the Romney campaign has drawn so close to the Obama campaign in the last month or so: It's basically sports. Politics is less about what's best for the country and more about crushing the other guys any way you can. Mitt Romney's speech today reflected this reality. If he wins—and Democrats need to remember that with a little over a week to go, the possibility of a Romney win is very real—it will be because his people played the change game better.