Why I liked Rick Santorum’s speech better than Ann Romney’s

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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While the buzz this morning is mostly about Ann Romney’s convention speech, for my money, Sen. Rick Santorum’s remarks were the best of the night. Whereas it was easy to see the other speeches had been crafted to score obvious points and reinforce the “you didn’t build that” narrative, Santorum’s speech was authentic and in keeping with the themes of his life.

His frequent references to “hands” will be an easy target for the late night comics to mock, but the repetition and symbolism was refreshing in a rhetorical world that has largely given up on poetry. Consider this section:

“I held its hand. I shook the hand of the American Dream. And it has a strong grip.

I shook hands of farmers and ranchers who made America the bread basket of the world. Hands weathered and worn. And proud of it.

I grasped dirty hands with scars that come from years of labor in the oil and gas fields, mines and mills. Hands that power and build America and are stewards of the abundant resources that God has given us.

I gripped hands that work in restaurants and hotels, in hospitals, banks, and grocery stores. Hands that serve and care for all of us.

I clasped hands of men and women in uniform and their families. Hands that sacrifice and risk all to protect and keep us free. And hands that pray for their safe return home.

I held hands that are in want. Hands looking for the dignity of a good job, hands growing weary of not finding one but refusing to give up hope.

And finally, I cradled the little, broken hands of the disabled. Hands that struggle and bring pain, hands that ennoble us and bring great joy.”

In fairness, Santorum also benefits from diversity; his was the only speech of the night to even touch on social issues. “I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands in love to lift up all of God’s children – born and unborn – and says that each of us has dignity and all of us have the right to live the American Dream,” he added.

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Ann Romney’s speech is garnering rave reviews, but I wonder how much of that is due to her attractiveness, poise, and charisma, versus the speech, itself. To me, the speech seemed an obvious pander to women, which is understandable (though it shouldn’t be obvious). It also seemed to spend a lot of time stressing Mitt and Ann’s hardscrabble early years, as if to say, “I know what it’s like to be poor, too!”

The problem is, this sounds off-key. True or not, it doesn’t ring true. While one doesn’t doubt they worked hard, they had a stronger safety net than most. And while criticizing someone for being rich isn’t my style, it is a bit grating to hear the very rich lecture you on how hard they had it. (To be sure, I’m not Ann Romney’s target audience — but neither are the Twitter pundits who lapped it up.)

Ann and Mitt have had struggles. For example, her struggles with breast cancer and MS. But while Ann Romney mentioned that in passing, I think she would have done better to focus on how Mitt stood by her during these travails.

Matt K. Lewis