Friday, August 31, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the RNC

The slickly-produced 3-day Republican National Convention is now done, culminating with Mitt Romney's unexpectedly passionate acceptance speech.  Before action moves to the Democratic National Convention on Monday, I thought I'd reflect on what worked well, what worked poorly and what was just plain ugly at the convention.

The Good (and Very Good)
(1) Condoleezza Rice
Rice gave far and away my favorite speech of the convention.  First, she has a grace and a presence that is seldom seen in political circles.  She spoke from the heart and even declined to use a teleprompter, choosing instead to speak from memory.  Her personal story is compelling and her views on national security, while all (including myself) may not agree, are always stated with intellectual force and thoughtful logic.  She hit the rare duo of giving an intellectual and honest speech and arousing the passion and love of the crowd.

(2) Chris Christie
The night that Christie spoke was also the night of Ann Romney's personal speech about her husband.  Most pundits concluded that Ann Romney's speech was highly effective and that Christie's was mediocre.  Let me go on record and say that I think most pundits are nuts.

Ann Romney's speech may have done something to personalize the sometimes-wooden GOP nominee, but it was largely generic platitudes.  No disrespect to the Romneys, who seem to have a truly loving marriage, but the fact that Ann Romney loves Mitt is hardly a surprise or a differentiating factor, and certainly not something anyone should vote based on.

Christie's speech was pointed and passionate without being caustic (as he has often been accused) or deceiving.  His story of effective governance in New Jersey is almost all true.  His line that "real leaders don't listen to polls, real leaders change polls" will probably be the one line from the 3-day convention that I will remember for a long time and I thought struck a chord with an increasingly cynical electorate.  He represented the future of the GOP well.

(3) The Personal Narratives of Mitt Romney's Life
The stories, told by others, of the personally generous things that Mitt Romney has done to help children with cancer, a single mother with a leaky roof and many others personalized Romney for me in a way that Ann Romney's speech failed to do.  I write a lot about politics and am not particularly prone to being emotionally swayed by politics, much less so by a heavily produced political convention, but I honestly walked away from those speeches believing Mitt to be a good person.

(4) The First Half of Mitt's Acceptance Speech
Mitt was fired up, patriotic and optimistic, possibly the three most important elements a candidate has to possess to be a winner on the national stage.  He was believable and while he took President Obama head on, he did it in a reasonable way, steering clear of ridiculous allegations.  His singular question "If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?" I thought was a simple and fairly damning indictment of the Obama Administration - those who voted for President Obama (myself included) are certainly a heck of a lot less excited about the President now than when he was a candidate.

(1) The Second Half of Mitt Romney's Speech
When he began to talk policy, Mitt utterly lost me, and I would wager, many independent voters.  When he says a top priority of his will be to "repeal and replace Obamacare", I am still struck with two thoughts.  #1 - Why are you so passionate about repealing a bill that is based on the one you created in your home state and that you wrote in early 2009 in a USA Today editorial should be anational model?  And #2 (and more importantly, once I get past his big flip-flop) - replace it with what?  What is the Romney healthcare plan?

Secondly, lowering taxes, increasing defense spending, protecting existing entitlement benefits for those retired and those slated to retire in the next 10 years and balancing the budget is a mathematical impossibility.  Let me put it more simply - it is a lie.  Mitt Romney is right to call President Obama on the carpet for not halving the deficit as he had promised to do in the 2008 campaign.  But Mitt's plan is far more dishonest.

Finally, his foreign policy indictment of the President was, to me, bizarre.  Lack of support for Israel is a legitimate issue.  But Romney will be more free trade and yet impose sanctions on China?  Does any credible economist or foreign policy expert think these two promises are reasonable?  He would have done more with Iran?  What exactly?  Go to war?  Romney would be wise to steer clear of foreign policy, as I think it is possibly Obama's strongest story.

One small but subtle final point - how can Romney simultaneously claim that we need to shrink the federal payroll but oppose defense cuts, in part, because they would "cost jobs" (his words in his convention speech)?  Does it get any more hypocritical than that?

(2) Paul Ryan
The big idea, serious policy guy told a dishonest set of hackish talking points.  I had some hope when Ryan became the VP pick that we were going to have a serious discussion about the size of government and the best way to reduce the deficit.  After his speech, I think I can kiss that goodbye and officially label him an opportunist, not a serious thinker.

His indictment of Obama for a shuttered GM plant has been ravaged by the fact-checking organizations.  Blaming the President for a factory whose closure was announced during the Bush administration is a joke.

His attack on Obama for reducing Medicare spending is absurd when his own budget contained identical cuts, as well as much deeper ones in Medicaid.  Claiming now that he and Romney are going to be the protector of entitlements is a funny thing to say for someone who has hardly been an advocate for our entitlement programs in the past.

All the points above about Romney's speech apply just as much to Ryan's as well.

The Ugly
 (1) Clint Eastwood
Might have been better to have him record a video or at least get him to agree to stick to a script.  The rambling, off-message rant from Eastwood the night of Romney's big speech was an ugly distraction.  I'm not sure exactly what Eastwood was advocating, but I think he said Romney would have brought troops home from Afghanistan faster?  I almost felt sorry for the guy, he was so lost and incoherent.

Overall, it was a solid convention.  It is too early to have a good poll read on the impact, although the last 2 cycles, convention impacts have been a lot more muted, thanks to the early exposure of 24 hour news networks.  If Romney can get a 2-3% bump out of this, I think his team would consider it to be a success.  Even that will be hard to measure with the DNC happening so close behind.  I will try to get a read on the polls early in the week, before the DNC begins in earnest, to measure the Romney bounce.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the most honest, non biased political blog I've ever read. Agree 100% with every word. You are speaking for the typical voter who isn't enthusiastic about either candidate, but recgonizes that both have strong points.