I watched or listened to a fair bit of the Republican National Convention the past few days. Now that the convention is over, I have a number of thoughts. Some of them may not be strictly convention related due to the gap since my last post, especially some of the material on Paul Ryan, but the focus will be the RNC.
Overall, I think the convention was very successful. There was a concerted, focused effort to build up Mitt Romney and illuminate the shortcomings of Barack Obama, and I imagine the organizers are probably, and rightfully, quite pleased with themselves today. And now to my thoughts, organized in almost no particular order (Ryan is last for a reason, though).
1) Ann Romney--There were multiple speeches by non-political figures, including members of Romney's church with stories that cannot fail to move a person with any sense of compassion, but Ann Romney's speech was the most memorable, and the most helpful, to the cause of making Mitt Romney more approachable for those who only knew him as that rich Mormon guy from Massachusetts. Frankly, I liked him more after her speech--and I already was finding him more likable than I did in the heat of the primaries or even a couple months ago. She has shown that she will be an asset to Mitt Romney as First Lady.
2) Clint Eastwood--The most talked about speech of the convention right now, a bit of political commentary and improv comedy that has extremely polarized responses--I caught it on the web later. Ace at Ace of Spades HQ is a huge fan, as is Sean Hannity. Most liberal commentators are not. While I personally appreciated what he was trying to do, and think it was funny, it certainly was a bit of a non-sequitur. If it gets people to laugh at Obama, and opens their eyes to his flaws, then it was a success. I don't think it will cause any harm to the Romney brand, though Clint may find himself invited to a lot less parties.
3) Mitt Romney--I did not see or hear all of Mitt's speech, but I've read both left-wing and right-wing takes on it. With the exception of actual Democratic operatives (CNN includes high-ranking members of the DNC in its review of the the convention), the consensus seems to be that the speech advanced the cause of his candidacy. Some of the more right-wing pundits believe it was Mitt's best speech--though he does not exactly have the reputaion of being a barn-burner on the stump. Nonetheless, he did not commit any gaffes, and nothing else that happened this week appears to have harmed him. Incidentally, getting ahead of Obama on going to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Isaac is a brilliant move.
4) Governor Susana Martinez--This speech was a tour de force, and was tied for the second best speech of the convention that I heard. A remarkable life story, a conversion that comes from a small epiphany--not like Paul on the road to Damascus, but a sudden realization that her own values align with conservatives and the Republicans, not the liberals and the Democrats--this is a story that wins converts, not just voters for a single cycle. Her delivery of the speech was very impressive, and I sincerely hope she remains prominent in the party.
5) Senator Marco Rubio--I missed this speech as well (Thursday's schedule was not conducive to following the convention), but once again he is gaining lots of accolades. He is one of the true rising stars in the GOP, and has acquited himself quite well in the Senate as well as a speaker--but I still need to see a lot more before I am ready to nominate him for President. Having read the transcript and heard the speech, he did well, very well indeed. I do have high hopes for Senator Rubio, but his time has not come yet.
6) Condoleezza Rice--This speech I rank with Governor Martinez's, although for different reasons. Ms. Rice's story is in some ways the most remarkable of any of the speakers, summed up in her one line about going from Jim Crow Birmingham to the highest diplomatic position and most prestigious cabinet office of the United States. Furthermore, she gave this speech without benefit of a teleprompter, which is almost unheard of for a scripted speech in the modern political environment. It is easy to see why many in the Republican party, especially the more moderate elements, are drooling at the prospect of her running for office. It is not clear, however, that she has a desire to hold office.
7) Representative Paul Ryan--To my thinking, Paul Ryan was the true star of the convention. Krauthammer wrote a piece a couple weeks ago that echoes my own thoughts, namely that Ryan is set up to be the standard bearer for the Republican party for a generation. I disagree only in that Ryan might actually be a two generation figure. If Romney does become the next President, and can in fact manage to turn around the economy, Ryan would then be able to stroll into the White House in another 8 years, since he will have played a significant part in said turnaround. After 2 terms as vice president and 2 terms as president, Ryan would sill be under 60--a younger, wonkier Reagan figure who could still have a strong voice for another 20 years.
And then there is his speech--a speech that was filled with pointed truths (don't believe the fact-checkers--everything they harp on is either factually accurate or a matter of opinion) that several have called "devastating" and led Ace (hardly a font of unrelenting optimism) to pronounce the election "over". (Ace is feeling his oats a little less since the Nielsen numbers are in, but he still seems pretty positive.) The word I used at the time, listening to the speech, and that I've also seen used by others including Ace, was "evisceration". It was utterly damning of Obama's policies and failures, with both national elements and personal touches. Like many other speakers, he allowed for former Obama supporters to save face by not voting for him in 2012, but no other speaker that I am aware of managed to destroy Obama's record so thoroughly in the process.
I thought Perry had fire in the belly at the onset of his campaign, but his nomination was not destined to be. Romney, I believe, will be adequate to the current challenges, but it is Ryan, with fire in the belly to spare, who can lead the Republican party, and conservative philosophy, into the future--and as of this moment, I do not see anyone on the political landscape who would make me happier in that role.