A Good Night for Real Contrast

TAMPA, Fla. — Tuesday night was Good Cop/Bad Cop night at the Republican National Convention. Ann Romney played the good cop; the keynote speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, played the bad cop.

Where Mitt Romney comes across as remote, his wife exudes accessibility. Democrats have devised a talking point about the Republicans’ so-called “war on women.” You don’t look at Ann Romney and see misogyny. You see a warm wife and mother who is as happy with her husband’s many attentions as a cat napping in the sun.

Democrats want to talk war. Fine. Ann Romney opened her Tuesday night speech in an appeal to voters outside the base. “I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts. I want to talk not about what divides us but (about) what holds us together as an American family.”

And: “Tonight I want to talk to you about love.” Turn the other cheek.

I’ve argued that Team Romney shouldn’t try so hard to humanize (for lack of a better word) the former Massachusetts governor — sell him as a top-drawer, highly pragmatic problem-solver, not an Everyman. Or husband of the year, a partner in what Ann Romney assured America is “a real marriage.” (Please. He bought her a horse.)

Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo tells me I’m wrong. The time has come, says Russo, when voters are looking for “a sense in their gut that this candidate is right for America today.”

Then there were the Republican governors.

In June, Iowa’s GOP governor, Terry Branstad, told The Wall Street Journal that Romney shouldn’t just talk down the economy, especially in states with low unemployment rates and Republican governors. “Romney should be saying, ‘Let’s do what (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich is doing or (Wisconsin Gov. Scott) Walker is doing or (Virginia Gov. Bob) McDonnell is doing in the states where things are looking good. He should be seizing that momentum and spotlighting it.”

Team Romney did just that in an evening with the theme “We Built It.” This is the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s assertion in July that successful people didn’t succeed without help from teachers, mentors and government: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

Team Romney came up with a savvy way to promote the “We Built It” banner. Kasich, Walker and McDonnell were among seven GOP governors who spoke to the convention Tuesday night. Some governors were followed by small-business people from their states, who talked of the sacrifices they made to get ahead.

Then Christie bounded onto the stage. A day after he hit California Gov. Jerry Brown for wanting to raise taxes — before the California delegation — Christie asserted that Republicans have the stuff to “choose respect over love.” (Yes, after Ann Romney gave a speech about love.)

Yes, it was a red meat speech for the party faithful, but Christie also told seniors that the entitlement system is “overburdened” and that someone has to fix it. The problems are too big for us not to act. One party sells the lie; the other side is ready to do unpopular things. Christie fired up the base.

Christie didn’t mention Obama by name. Nor did he mention Vice President Joe Biden. But then, he didn’t have to.

Sometimes the best way to make a hard point is with a kinder, gentler tone. After Christie’s stemwinder was over, the words of Ann Romney lingered.

“Everything has become harder,” she sighed. And: “Do we want to raise our children to be afraid of success?”

Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].

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