Yet Mr. Romney’s specialty during his business career was the turnaround, and gradually he applied this art to his campaign. Over two years, and this autumn especially, he ultimately came to an agenda and governing vision equal to the political moment. …

Mr. Romney’s good judgment in choosing Mr. Ryan as his running mate reflected this pragmatic, even-keeled impulse; the Wisconsinite is not the ideologue of Washington lore. The pick came against the counsel of Mr. Romney’s campaign advisers, and it has been accompanied by constructive proposals on energy, education, regulation and more. …

But this policy entrepreneurship was always vying with another inclination. Mr. Romney’s tactical calculation was that he could defeat Mr. Obama simply by running as the safe, competent alternative who didn’t need to explain. …

A month ago, something shifted—the precise date being Mr. Romney’s first debate with Mr. Obama. All of a sudden he tapped into the public’s appetite for leadership and a better alternative to Obamanomics. He finally invested this historic election with the consequential themes it deserves. For the most part he has since kept up a fluent, principled case for his proposals, though he needs to close with the same sharp contrasts.