Mitt Romney's acceptance speech: 5 things he needs to do

Thursday is one of the biggest nights of Mitt's political life — and pundits have been quick to tell him how to maximize his uninterrupted hour in primetime

Mitt and Ann Romney
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As he accepts the Republican Party's nomination for president, "Mitt Romney's job tonight is simple: Energize his base, explain his vision for the future, [and] erase doubts undecided voters may still have," says Todd Spangler in the Detroit Free Press. "Piece of cake, right?" Indeed, legions of messaging gurus agree that Romney needs to "give perhaps his best speech ever, one worthy of what will most likely be his biggest audience yet." Here, five pieces of unsolicited advice for Romney as he readies his national address:

1. Romney needs to get personal

This is the frequently opaque Romney's best, maybe last, chance "to show people the man behind the coiffed hair and gorgeous family," says Maggie Haberman at Politico. In other words, "Romney needs to show his humanity." Romney is famously uncomfortable talking about himself, Tony Fratto, a speechwriter for George W. Bush, tells Bloomberg News. And while the importance of "liking the guy can be overemphasized," Romney absolutely "needs to make some connection with people so they can feel comfortable [welcoming] him into their living rooms every night for the next four years."

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2. He has to offer a persuasively specific plan for the economy

Forget personality, former Nixon speechwriter Stephen Hess tells CBS News. Only one issue matters and "it's not whether he's likeable and has a wonderful family, but rather that he can convince people he would be better on the economy than Barack Obama." To win, Romney needs to talk about jobs and why he's the man to bring them back — "nothing else." And where his running mate Paul Ryan was vague, Romney needs to be as specific as possible. "If he comes out with glorious generalities, he just sounds like another politician."

3. He should address his Mormon religion

Surprisingly, "Mormonism has really fallen off the radar of most Americans, despite Romney’s nomination for president," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. But Ryan and Mike Huckabee both discussed Romney's faith Wednesday night, and that setup isn't by accident. "This is a tough issue for Romney to talk about, given the reservations of some in the evangelical community — and outside it — toward the Mormon religion," but he has more to gain than lose by positioning himself as a man of faith. Expect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to "be a significant part of Romney's speech."

4. Romney must woo disillusioned Obama voters

Republicans believe that Ann Romney won over young married women, "probably the largest part of the minuscule pool of truly undecided voters," and that Ryan and Chris Christie locked up fiscal and social conservatives, say Dave Helling and Steve Kraske in The Kansas City Star. But that's not enough to put Romney in the lead. GOP strategists think "a small, but crucial, sliver of 2008 Obama voters is disappointed enough to vote for someone else, but isn't convinced Romney is an acceptable alternative." That means the goal of Romney's speech is "to convince tens of thousands of voters... that it's OK to change their minds." He can do this by selling himself as a "successful businessman, a turnaround specialist who can save the economy, but not a captive of the party's most extreme right wing."

5. He should talk straight for once

It's all so predictable, says Matt Lattimer at The Daily Beast. There will be "the loving tribute to his wife, Ann, who will act surprised... the on-cue catch in his voice as he praises his deceased father, who we will be told taught young Mitt (or was he Willard then?) about hard work and consistency... the well-practiced lines making fun of himself and attacking Obama... the misty-eyed homage to St. Ronald of Reagan." But what would be really refreshing — a real game-changer — is if this "one-time moderate-independent-conservative-anti-Reagan-pro-Reagan-pro-choice-pro-life-more-pro-gay-rights-than-Teddy-Kennedy-anti-gay-marriage-man-of-Michigan/Massachusetts/New Hampshire/Utah" told us what is really in his heart. That's the only way Romney will beat his inauthentic-robot rap — and the only thing he won't do in his big speech.

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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