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Wednesday August 29, 2012

RNC Daily Dispatch - Day 3

Posted by AAI at 3:00 pm

Tuesday Speeches Recap

The two major speeches last night – given by Ann Romney and Governor Chris Christie – stood in stark contrast to one another in their tone, content, and reception. Ann Romney went to the podium with two clear tasks: humanizing Mitt Romney and appealing to female voters. The consensus after her speech was that she did an excellent job at both. The potential first lady was charming and personal, despite her speech being at times awkwardly paced. Her ad-lib of “I love you, women!” was met with cheers and she received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her speech. Ann Romney was also one of the only speakers of the night to stick to the topic of Mitt Romney, as she spoke at length about their past, their marriage, and his qualifications.

Chis Christie, by contrast, did not mention Mitt Romney until 20 minutes into his speech. Many remarked that he seemed to be accepting the nomination for 2016 four years early. The theme of Christie’s speech was choosing to be respected over being loved – an awkward juxtaposition with Ann Romney, who opened her speech with the line “I’m here to talk about love.” Governor Christie argued that Americans were ready to hear the “hard truths” about necessary spending cuts and held up his record in New Jersey as a model. The reactions to Governor Christie’s speech were mixed. Criticisms were not directed at the substance of his speech, but rather at his failure to effectively promote Mitt Romney. When asked why he didn’t promote the Governor more, Christie argued that Romney’s promotion was Ann Romney’s task, while his job was lay out the stakes of the election. Christie said, “It actually freed me up to put the choice into more general terms. It allowed me to be able to let Ann Romney talk about Mitt Romney the person.” Both the Michigan and New Jersey delegations had front and center seats to the speech, including Arab American delegates Sherine El-Abd and Senator Joseph Kyrillos from New Jersey, and Nick Hawatmeh from Michigan.

Of the outside-primetime speeches, the remarks by Utah congressional candidate and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love were the definite highlight. The rising star electrified the crowd and after her speech she reportedly drew over $93,000 in new donations overnight for her bid to become the first African American Republican woman in Congress. 

Arab American Republican Luncheon

Arab American GOP leaders gathered this afternoon for a meeting and strategy session on how to most effectively use the remaining two months before the November elections. Former Governor John H. Sununu joined AAI Chairman George Salem along with delegates and political operatives from seven different states.

Wednesday Speaker Preview

Tonight’s major speeches include Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM). Rice’s speech is notable in that she is the only former member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet in attendance at the convention. The embrace of Sec. Rice is another sign that foreign policy is one area in which the Romney campaign has not sought to distance itself from the Bush presidency. The Romney campaign’s foreign policy advisors are predominately from the Bush-era neocon community. Condoleezza Rice’s task tonight is actually crucially important, as she has been charged with boosting a ticket that lacks any sort of foreign policy credentials. Her speech tonight will likely be full of neocon red meat about the dangers the world faces and Obama’s failure to deal with them.

Sec. Rice’s and Governor Martinez’s speeches are important, but tonight is all about Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan is beloved by the party’s conservative base, so the conversation tomorrow will likely not be whether he was well received, but rather whether he overshadowed Romney. Paul Ryan’s task tonight is to channel his personal appeal into excitement for Mitt Romney, a task at which every other speaker this convention with the exception of Ann Romney has failed to accomplish.

Mitt Romney Struggles to “Own” the Convention

One of the prevailing topics of buzz from this GOP convention so far is whether Mitt Romney is failing to “own” the convention. This convention is Romney’s crucial chance to reintroduce himself to voters and generate enthusiasm. A variety of factors, however, are making Romney appear to be an afterthought rather than the center of attention. Hurricane Isaac has sapped media attention from the convention and presented a dangerous image problem for the GOP. Ron Paul’s supporters continue to wreak havoc and grassroots activists are vigorously fighting proposed changes to convention rules that would favor party elites. The platform committee produced the most extreme platform in the party’s history and the media and voters have shown an uncharacteristically high level of interest in its contents. Speakers on the first day of the convention for the most part failed to even talk about Mitt Romney, let alone generate excitement about his candidacy. What’s worse for Romney is that voters and attendees at the convention seem more interested in finding the next Republican rising-star than they are in hearing about Romney. Republicans, it seems, are looking for their equivalent of Barack Obama at the 2004 convention. With little excitement built in advance, Romney’s acceptance speech will be all the more crucial to his goal of rebranding his candidacy. After all, if you want something done, sometimes you have to do it yourself. 

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