Special Report

From the Winner’s Locker Room

Romney wows the faithful at the Tampa Convention Center.

By 2.1.12

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TAMPA -- It was the winner's locker room last night. A few hundred friends of Mitt Romney were packed into one of the smaller rooms at the Tampa Convention Center for the purpose of hearing a short victory speech by the winner -- by a large margin -- of the Florida primary.

The room was hot, thanks to all the television lights, and the people there merely props for the TV speech. But they didn't seem to mind. And they didn't have to stay long. The election was called for Romney just minutes after the polls closed, by the margin the pollsters had predicted. Romney's talk began early and was brief.

It wasn't easy to mix and mingle in the noisy, tight quarters. But I did manage to talk to a few of the faithful before the speaking got going. As the campaign in Florida was little more than a series of personal charges and counter-charges, I wondered what these people wanted Romney to do if he's elected president.

Tampa attorney Todd Marks said he wants Romney to "get the economy working again." He says he believes Romney can do it because "he's been a success at every level -- in his personal life, in business, with the Olympics."

Retired Navy lieutenant commander Ginger Price of Tampa wants "less regulation and better funding for the military." May Swartzbaugh, visiting from Maine, is also concerned about current cuts in the military. She has a son who is an Army ranger and she's looking for a leader, which she believes Romney is.

Chris Wilford of Tampa sees increased production and prosperity following reduced regulation, and says he believes Romney understands this. Jim Celeste of Kissimmee likes Romney's "proven record in the private sector." (The savvy Celeste also says he starts his day at Spectator.org).

Ward McKelvey of Tampa just wants Romney to "Stamp out Obamaism." He said he believes "Romney is capable of this -- this is why I voted for him."

The answers went on like this, and when Romney took the stage to make his remarks, these folks and others weren't disappointed. His remarks, unlike his TV ad in the state, were not about what a scofflaw Newt Gingrich is. In fact he never mentioned Newt beyond congratulating all of his opponents on well run and vigorous campaigns. Instead he talked about beating Barack Obama, and what he would do if he did.

Romney tried to deflect the complaint of some Republicans that the primary so far has been a circular firing squad, with Republicans candidates providing ammunition for the Democrats.

"A competitive primary does not diminish us -- it prepares us -- and we're going to win," Romney said to cheers. "We'll be a united party in Tampa in August."

He reminded his local friends and the TV audience about how Obama said if he couldn't get the economy and Americans back to work in three years he would be a one-term president.

"We're here to collect," Romney said. Romney said he would turn the economy around by reducing the size of government, including delivering a balanced budget. "I will not just slow the growth of government, but reverse it," he said.

He contrasted his idea of a free and market-based economy with Obama, whose "idea of a free economy is to send your money to his friends."

Romney also got good marks for saying he would reverse the reduction of the U.S. military. He said he would build "a military so powerful no one would ever think of challenging it."

OK, this is all very general stuff. In his remarks on the economy he didn't go much beyond saying he would rejuvenate the economy based on conservative principles because he knows how to do it. But it was, after all, a 20-minute victory speech. And he used part of that time for some snappy red-meat one-liners for those who believe our current president has changed America in ways they do not like.

He promised to "restore the values that made America the hope of the world." He called the last three years "a detour, not our destination." He contrasted his American approach with Obama's European approach.

The now devalued word "hope" got a further workout with this zinger: "Hope is a new job and a paycheck -- not a word on a faded bumper sticker."

There's not too much to take to the bank here. But I said up front that it was the winners' locker room. And the winners clearly enjoyed themselves, which is not unheard of after a 15-point win. At least the remarks gave the outlines of a conservative approach to bringing American out of its current doldrums. And it was a pleasure not to hear even further chapter and verse on Newt Gingrich's shortcomings as a politician and a human being.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.