Good work, Romney advance people.
On the night heralded as the most important one of Mitt Romney's political career, the Republican nominee for president was overshadowed by a surprise guest, 82-year-old actor/director/American icon Clint Eastwood, who electrified the crowd when he appeared on stage just after 10 p.m. to the strains of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly."
But things quickly got weird — really weird.
Eastwood engaged in a bizarre, 12-minute mock conversation with an empty chair representing President Obama. Your opinion of how that went may depend on whom you're supporting for president. (Or not. CNN's Wolf Blitzer was visibly angry in discussing the topic afterward.)
But for such a straight-laced guy as Romney, Eastwood's flight of fancy seemed completely out of place, especially coming as it did after 90 minutes of solemn commentary by individuals attesting to Romney's character. The speakers, including members of his church, colleagues at Bain Capital and former Olympians, were followed by a biographical film depicting Romney as a warm and funny family man.
Then the candidate hit the stage.
But there were lots of good lines.
“If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
Then there was this line that mocked the self-importance of the Obama 2008 campaign, saying, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise … is to help you and your family. "
Political analysts talk about how a speech like this is designed not so much for those in the hall, but for the tens of millions watching at home on their televisions. And that was never more obvious than when Romney tried to play Everyman, talking about how the country was genuinely excited to elect Obama in 2008, when undoubtedly there could be no more than a handful of those in the Times Forum who actually felt that way.
Much of the convention was all about shoring up some of Romney's big liabilities in the polls with Latinos and women. Check out this excerpt of Romney talking about his mother, who ran for the Senate in 1970.
"I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. … As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies."
Romney promised to create 12 million jobs, presumably in his first term in office. He then listed five steps toward achieving that goal.
"First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.
Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.
Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.
Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
And fifth, we will champion SMALL businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare."
The other political figure getting prime time coverage was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who for many months was the focus of speculation as a possible Romney running mate or convention keynote speaker.
He got neither gig, but did land probably the next best speaking position, introducing the nominee to the biggest audience watching during the entire convention.
A couple of minutes into his speech, Rubio slammed Obama, even while sounding like he was praising him, saying, "Our problem with President Obama isn't that he's a bad person. By all accounts, he too is a good husband, and a good father — and thanks to lots of practice, a pretty good golfer."
On the floor of the convention, CL learned from several delegates that Mitt was never their first choice.
Perhaps best summarizing this view was Vicki Sciolaro from Kansas, whose first choice was Rick Perry. After the Texas governor flamed out of the race, Sciolaro went for Newt Gingrich, with whom she actually traveled around the country campaigning. But now she says she's a Romney supporter "all the way."
We'll have to wait and see over the weekend if the GOP ticket gets any "bounce" from the Tampa convention, but any positive change in the polls could be short-lived. The Democrats begin their convention on Tuesday.