Mitt Romney used the choice of running mate Rep. Paul Ryan to script a new promise for presidential politics and leadership: Authentic, bold, positive and focused on results over partisan gridlock.
But is this a promise he can keep? Nothing about this campaign so far would suggest so.
Romney and Democratic rival President Obama have led their partisan backers down a trail of lies, negativity and vacuous policies that seem certain to guarantee an angry electorate four more years of gridlock.
But give Romney this much: It was great political theater -- a star-spangled backdrop and inspiring words from the GOP presidential nominee and his cowlick-sporting No. 2. Their promises of new leadership included:
BIG IDEAS: "We offer solutions that are bold, specific and achievable," Romney said. Since his platform so far is none of those things, it seems safe to assume that Romney was endorsing Ryan's polarizing budget. Like him or not, you must admit that Ryan has faced tough fiscal problems head-on with a plan that would have eliminated Medicare in favor of a fixed-value voucher plan for seniors. The refined proposal would preserve traditional Medicare as a choice, but encourage seniors to shift to private plans that offer lower premiums by forcing traditional Medicare to compete on price.
POSITIVE POLITICS: Romney said Ryan "doesn't demonize his opponents" but understands that honorable people can have honest differences. Those are great talking points for independent voters, the folks who both Romney and Obama are turning off with the most negative, dishonest campaign in recent memory.
CAN-DO PRAGMATISM: The country is craving leadership and solutions, something Ryan said he brings to the table with a record of "turning ideas into action and action into solutions." As an incumbent, Obama could point to a record of action if he wasn't so focused on tearing down Romney. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney worked with Democrats to pass health care reform but is now running away from that laudable accomplishment.
AUTHENTICITY: This is Romney's biggest political weakness. His policy flip-flops and the general sense that he's not comfortable in his own skin leads voters, including many supporters, wondering about his core values. He refuses to talk about his faith or disclose details about his hard-earned wealth, raising questions in areas that could actually endear Romney to voters. And so it was interesting to watch Romney turn a gaffe into an unscripted moment of authenticity.
After introducing Ryan as "the next President of the United States," Romney ceded the stage to his running mate before realizing the error and returning to the lectern. Placing a hand of Ryan's shoulder, Romney said, "Every now and then I've been known to make a mistake but I can tell you this, he's going to be the next VICE president of the United States."
Every now and then, a presidential candidate surprises us with a truly human and honest moment.