Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

At the GOP convention, the story of Mitt Romney

Janna and Paul Ryan with Ann and Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Janna and Paul Ryan with Ann and Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

On Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, delegates heard the story of Mitt Romney, a chronicle of his religious faith, personal generosity and business acumen.

Friends and members of his church told emotional stories describing his kindness and humanity, while prominent Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Newt and Callista Gingrich spoke of Romney’s qualifications as a leader.

We fact-checked several claims by Romney and the other speakers.

Newt Gingrich said, "It's striking how President (Jimmy) Carter and President Obama both took our nation down a path that in four years weakened America's confidence in itself and our hope for a better future."

Callista Gingrich continued, "Both weakened the respect for America abroad."

We compared favorability ratings of the United States from the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency to the most recent figure under Obama. The U.S. on average has higher favorability ratings now, according to surveys. However, America’s favorability has eroded somewhat since Obama’s first year in office, though it’s still above the final levels of the Bush administration. We rated Callista Gingrich’s statement Mostly False.

Bush talked up Romney’s education record, saying "in Massachusetts, Gov. Romney narrowed the gap between students of different races." But education reforms that improved student achievement in the Bay State were in place long before Romney became governor. What’s more, during his tenure the gap did not improve at every grade level. The rating: Half True.

Romney, accepting his party's nomination, reminded voters how optimistic they felt four years ago when Obama was elected -- and how that optimism has faded since. "The majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future," he said.

That's true, according to polls we found. But that level of pessimism is also not new under Obama. We rated the statement Half True.

Romney also asked Americans if they're better off today than four years ago. That's a topic we previously examined using several statistical metrics.

He revived a claim he has repeated again and again since 2010 -- that Obama went around the world and apologized for America.

"President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations," Romney said in the speech.

But Obama's words to other world leaders amounted to measured diplomacy. There was no "apology tour." We rated that Pants On Fire.

Also on the foreign policy front, Romney criticized Obama for his approach to Iran. "In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We're still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning," Romney said.

Obama’s first interview as president came on Jan. 27, 2009, with Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya. The question about Iran’s nuclear status was the last one in the interview.

Melhem asked, "Will the United States ever live with a nuclear Iran? And if not, how far are you going in the direction of preventing it?"

In his answer, Obama said, "I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress."

So Romney's paraphrase was accurate. We rated it True.

Romney also said that  "unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America."

We examined that issue in Dec. 2011 when President Obama made the opposite claim. At a campaign event in Pennsylvania, he said that "for the average middle class family, your taxes are lower today than when I took office." We rated that True.