It had the air of a new day and new beginning. Even critics in media punditry noticed that.

Or the ones who covered Tuesday’s five state elections and Gov. Mitt Romney’s remarks at the end of the day.

On a symbolic night for his campaign, Mitt Romney returned to New Hampshire to thank his supporters for his all but certain claim on the Republican nomination and to spell out the economic themes that will underpin his fall battle with President Obama.

Four years ago, Obama “dazzled us” with sweeping promises of “hope and change,” Romney said. “But after we came down to earth, after all the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

“Is it easier to make ends meet?” he said, in a riff on presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s famous query in 1980, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

“Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one?” he asked, as the sign-waving crowd shouted, “No!” to each consecutive question. “Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more at your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?”

Romney capped off by suggesting, “If the answer were ‘yes’ to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his record, and rightly so. But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions and distractions and distortions.

“That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and at a different time, but not here and not now,” he said, and borrowing from a Clinton-era slogan, added, “It’s still about the economy, and we’re not stupid.”

It’s time to elevate the political conversation, and the claims to do so for the past four years have been hollow. Lately, the president has campaigned on the politics of class warfare and gender warfare, and it is tiresome.

News roundtables on Tuesday echoed the message that the choice has just been made clear.

Romney also coopted Obama’s “fairness” theme, which the president has invoked to describe the gulf between an over-taxed middle class and under-taxed elite. Romney suggested that fairness could be achieved any number of ways in society under conservative proposals.

“We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice,” he said. “… We will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing. We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve. And we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts onto the next.

“…In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that’s taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.”

The chattering classes choosing to dwell on a gaffe here or there by any candidate at this point seems small minded. We have major, course-changing, life-altering paths set before us and we have to decide which to take, which worldview best represents leadership of and service to the common good. Anyone who says there’s little or no difference between Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama is not serious or just not intellectually honest.

Sometimes, I hate politics. I’d rather talk about morals and principles and advancing true human rights, according to the founding documents of the United States and the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, before both became so politically hijacked. But politicians use the language and provide the vehicle so we must engage.

Some analyst on television the day after Romney’s primary victories and pivotal speech said approvingly that his speech soared, without touching on things like marriage issues and contraception. And I thought ‘why the heck are you even saying that? Who is making contraception an issue for government, anyway?’

Note to strategists and partisan ‘pundits’ combox trolls: The ‘flip-flopper’ charge against different GOP candidates and especially Gingrich and Romney just don’t work when the candidate flipped one way, which was a conversion to a new way of seeing an issue. If only President Obama would ‘flip’ on the sanctity of life and religious libery issues.

If Gov. Romney is to be his party’s nominee, the time to rally ’round has come, as it did for Democrats in ’08 when Obama pulled away from Hillary Clinton.

Jordan Sekulow is only one of many analysts making the case for social conservatives to embrace Mitt Romney.

With the tremendous differences between the Obama platform and Romney platform, what we need now is clarity.

And the party to have his back.

I hope this year’s election going forward will be more authentic, about the real issues that need immediate attention and the real role and limits of government. We’ll do our part here to cover that.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....