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All 2016 Republican presidential candidates should be listening to Mitt Romney

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On Friday night, the GOP’s 2012 nominee for president Mitt Romney appeared alongside of his wife Ann on the deck of the museum ship the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego, the site of the gathering of the Republican National Committee, which re-elected its chair Reince Priebus for an unprecedented third term.

Most of the attention was on Romney: What would he say and what wouldn’t he say, as speculation about his plans for 2016 swirled? Rather than report the details of the 15 minutes of remarks, most accounts simply skipped over the specifics and got right to the writer’s view of what they meant.

The speech itself is posted on You Tube, and is worth a complete viewing. Priebus’s introduction noted the many, many miles logged by Romney on behalf of candidates across the country in ’14, and Ann Romney issued a gracious thanks. Then Romney began by thanking Priebus for his very successful tenure to date and thanked the audience for all they did in both ’12 and ’14, and then began to name check some of the winners in November. He included new Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Dan Sullivan in Alaska, new Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, new Utah Congresswoman Mia Love, new Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and, to great applause, new Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. (Note that Romney name checked the three combat veterans who are now in the Senate — Cotton, Ernst and Sullivan.)

Romney then paused to focus his remarks specifically on one candidate, former Air Force fighter pilot Martha McSally, who ran and lost in 2012 and came right back into a tough race and won in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District in 2014 — against the advice of a lot of Arizona political pros. No reporter figured out Romney was talking about a candidate who lost and came back to win against the advice of the media talking heads. The media folks on the deck of the Midway weren’t listening for the right clues. No surprise there.

Many reporters’ accounts noted that Romney outlined a 2016 GOP campaign built on three things, and then spent most of the ink on his calls for renewed opportunity for every American and redoubled but effective efforts to lift people out of poverty. A few noted his reference to his 10 years as a pastor. But most skipped over his quick but comprehensive review of the collapsed “Clinton-Obama” foreign policy, which came first and lasted longest.

Romney brought up Hillary’s disastrous “reset button” for Russia and erased red lines in Syria, and the Clinton-Obama mantra of “leading from behind.” Romney charged that Clinton-Obama spoke loudly and carried a little stick, and correctly attributed to Clinton and Obama the view that America and her allies, “including Israel,” were the problem and not the solution.

Romney underscored that “terrorism was not on the run,” and then catalogued the actions just in recent days, of “violent jihadists in Paris, in Nigeria, in Yemen where hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives had been lost.” Romney pointed to disarray and danger in Syria, and Libya, menace from Iran, the swallowing of Crimea and other parts of Ukraine by Russia, China’s aggressiveness in South China Sea and trouble in South America.

After this comprehensive listing of the results of six years of Clinton-Obama genius, Romney declared the GOP must run on making the world safe which, he concluded, depended on American power.

Whether or not Romney does run, every would-be GOP nominee needs to listen to and adopt the Romney opening graphs about the serial fiascos of the Clinton-Obama-Kerry-James Taylor era foreign policy. It is going to be a national security election, like 1980, where fear of America decline will be driving the debate. Whether he runs or not, Romney has already figured out the key theme for ’16.

 

This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.

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