Commentary Magazine


Topic: Republican National Convention

Faithless Electors Could Cost Romney

Throughout the winter and spring, supporters of defeated libertarian extremist Rep. Ron Paul were fond of claiming that they had the power to either disrupt the Republican National Convention or generate enough defections in November to sabotage the mainstream GOP’s efforts to win back the presidency. Though the Paulbots managed to amuse some bored members of the press corps at the Tampa convention, their attempts to gain attention barely deserved to be called a distraction. Their threats about affecting the vote in the general election appear to be even emptier as polling showed that much of Paul’s limited support came from Democrats crossing over to participate in GOP primaries and caucuses. However, it appears that the libertarian fringe could actually materially affect the outcome in a way that no one seems to have foreseen.

As the Associated Press reports today, three of the Republicans who will become members of the Electoral College should Mitt Romney win their states are now saying they will refuse to vote for the Republican. All three are Paul backers who somehow managed to be appointed to this usually symbolic post but who have the power to thwart the will of the voters if that is their pleasure. Two are from potential tossup states, Iowa and Nevada. Another is from Texas, a state certain to go Republican this fall. All profess to be not merely disgusted with Romney’s relatively moderate stands on the issues but angry with some of the petty slights dealt out to Paul delegates in Tampa. Together, they could deprive Romney of a majority should the election turn out to be a nail-biter. If this happens, those in the GOP leadership who insisted on net letting Paul’s name be placed in nomination or in counting the votes cast for him will rue their decisions.

Read More

Throughout the winter and spring, supporters of defeated libertarian extremist Rep. Ron Paul were fond of claiming that they had the power to either disrupt the Republican National Convention or generate enough defections in November to sabotage the mainstream GOP’s efforts to win back the presidency. Though the Paulbots managed to amuse some bored members of the press corps at the Tampa convention, their attempts to gain attention barely deserved to be called a distraction. Their threats about affecting the vote in the general election appear to be even emptier as polling showed that much of Paul’s limited support came from Democrats crossing over to participate in GOP primaries and caucuses. However, it appears that the libertarian fringe could actually materially affect the outcome in a way that no one seems to have foreseen.

As the Associated Press reports today, three of the Republicans who will become members of the Electoral College should Mitt Romney win their states are now saying they will refuse to vote for the Republican. All three are Paul backers who somehow managed to be appointed to this usually symbolic post but who have the power to thwart the will of the voters if that is their pleasure. Two are from potential tossup states, Iowa and Nevada. Another is from Texas, a state certain to go Republican this fall. All profess to be not merely disgusted with Romney’s relatively moderate stands on the issues but angry with some of the petty slights dealt out to Paul delegates in Tampa. Together, they could deprive Romney of a majority should the election turn out to be a nail-biter. If this happens, those in the GOP leadership who insisted on net letting Paul’s name be placed in nomination or in counting the votes cast for him will rue their decisions.

Faithless electors are not unknown in American history, and approximately half of the states have laws prohibiting electors from voting for anyone but the choice of the voters. But as the AP points out, Nevada’s law carries no punishment, meaning that one of the GOP electors who has said he’ll vote for Ron Paul rather than Romney could probably do so with impunity.

Other Paul supporters who have managed to become potential members of the Electoral College promise they’ll defect only if it won’t influence the outcome of the election. Thus if Romney exceeds or falls short of the 270-vote majority he needs, there may be more than three votes for Paul or abstentions.

This possibility will raise the usual objections to the Electoral College as an institution. The faithless electors are right that the founders of the republic did intend them to act as a deliberative body of elites. Yet the College persists because changing it would alter the balance of power between the states and because it is difficult to shuck tradition. It was bad enough when it produced, as it did in 2000, an outcome that did not match the popular vote. But should faithless electors thwart the will of individual states, it will be difficult to refute the inevitable calls for change that will ensue.

But if Paul supporters didn’t like the top-down rules that were imposed on the RNC to silence them, this will only serve to motivate both parties to create regulations that will be even more draconian attempts to weed out dissidents from positions of influence. Any state Republican party, such as the one in Nevada, that allowed its electors to be chosen by the Paul faction will be likely to do everything to ensure that this never happens again.

The odds are, either Romney or President Obama will wind up getting more than 273 votes, making the potential Paul protest merely a matter of symbolism. But if, as is entirely possible, the outcome does come down to a couple of Electoral votes, the focus on these individuals will be intense. If they manage to deadlock the College and send the decision to Congress — something that last happened in 1824 — it will turn the election into more of a circus than the 2000 debacle in Florida.

Read Less

Rise From Poverty, Don’t Glorify It

The motto of the Republican Convention in Tampa last week was “We Built It.” Speakers repeated the line (sometimes to excess), videos were played on the theme, signs and banners lined the convention center. By the end of the week, nobody present in Tampa could be unaware that during a speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that small business owners didn’t build their businesses alone.

The GOP highlighted several speakers during the week that had inspiring stories of building small businesses out of nothing, who risked what little they had to build companies that would become employers. One speaker, Sher Valenzuela, appeared in the early evening on Tuesday and set the tone for the rest of the convention. Valenzuela and her husband (a second-generation Mexican-American), devastated by their son’s autism diagnosis, started a business in order to pay for his care.

Read More

The motto of the Republican Convention in Tampa last week was “We Built It.” Speakers repeated the line (sometimes to excess), videos were played on the theme, signs and banners lined the convention center. By the end of the week, nobody present in Tampa could be unaware that during a speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that small business owners didn’t build their businesses alone.

The GOP highlighted several speakers during the week that had inspiring stories of building small businesses out of nothing, who risked what little they had to build companies that would become employers. One speaker, Sher Valenzuela, appeared in the early evening on Tuesday and set the tone for the rest of the convention. Valenzuela and her husband (a second-generation Mexican-American), devastated by their son’s autism diagnosis, started a business in order to pay for his care.

Her husband learned his craft from a mail-order course while in the army, and took what he learned about sewing from this course and turned it into an upholstery  business that, fifteen years later, would employ more than 70 people in a 70,000-square-foot factory in their home state of Delaware. Her speech was inspiring and uplifting, exactly what the convention was hoping to accomplish with this relatively unknown candidate for Lt. Governor of a state they in all likelihood will not be able to win.

The next night, Paul Ryan also discussed his family’s rise from poverty. After his father passed away when Ryan was sixteen, his mother started a small business. He told the audience,

My Mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.

Many of the GOP’s speakers from the three nights of the convention spoke about their family’s humble roots and their rise not only to positions of political power, but also to the role of small business owner and employer. The latter, being an employer, was valued more than that of being a politician, and those on stage made sure the audience was aware of that fact.

Contrast this with the speeches last night from the Democratic National Convention. Two speakers, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and First Lady Michelle Obama, also discussed the poverty of their upbringings. The difference between their speeches and that of Valenzuela and Ryan was that while the Republicans spent the evening discussing their rise from poverty, the Democrats dwelled on their former poverty. Castro and Michelle Obama could have spoken about their first jobs, their struggles (and triumphs), getting through college, the successes they’ve made of their lives, but they chose not to. While they both honored their parents’ sacrifices, which enabled them to have better lives, they did not discuss how they or their parents achieved personal success. Neither Castro nor Obama discussed any experiences in business, and Castro measured his success in terms of holding public office, but never explained how he came to occupy it.

The contrast between these four speeches is remarkable and they set the tone for both parties and their conventions. The Republicans went to extraordinary lengths to showcase their commitment to small business, personal responsibility and ingenuity. Democrats spent the evening making martyrs out of the poor without ever encouraging them to reach higher than their government-sponsored lots in life. Republicans showed themselves to be the party of making the poor rich, and Democrats are the party of the poor. Which will resonate more with lower-class voters?

Read Less

Dems Ignore Independents at Convention

It may well be that only political junkies are glued to the television channels showing the political conventions these days but they remain a valuable medium for the parties to reach out to potential voters. That’s why the choices made by the organizers in terms of speakers and topics are significant in that they signal which demographic groups the parties are most interested in reaching.

Last week, the Republicans devoted some time to playing to their base but the main focus was on convincing wavering Democrats and independents that President Obama’s economic failures were a reason to turn him out of office. Their sloganeering centered on the president’s denigrating individual initiative. They mentioned their opposition to ObamaCare but most of their convention rhetoric wasn’t aimed at conservatives or Tea Partiers but at those who voted for the president four years ago.

But the first night of the Democratic National Convention has been strictly about rallying the liberal base.

For hours, Democratic speakers have been speaking about abortion, ObamaCare and lauding big government initiatives. Democratic delegates have loved it.

But does the Obama campaign really think offering a speaking position to the most extreme advocates of abortion on demand, including late term and partial birth procedures appeals to the majority of Americans who do not wish to make all abortions illegal but support reasonable restrictions?

Read More

It may well be that only political junkies are glued to the television channels showing the political conventions these days but they remain a valuable medium for the parties to reach out to potential voters. That’s why the choices made by the organizers in terms of speakers and topics are significant in that they signal which demographic groups the parties are most interested in reaching.

Last week, the Republicans devoted some time to playing to their base but the main focus was on convincing wavering Democrats and independents that President Obama’s economic failures were a reason to turn him out of office. Their sloganeering centered on the president’s denigrating individual initiative. They mentioned their opposition to ObamaCare but most of their convention rhetoric wasn’t aimed at conservatives or Tea Partiers but at those who voted for the president four years ago.

But the first night of the Democratic National Convention has been strictly about rallying the liberal base.

For hours, Democratic speakers have been speaking about abortion, ObamaCare and lauding big government initiatives. Democratic delegates have loved it.

But does the Obama campaign really think offering a speaking position to the most extreme advocates of abortion on demand, including late term and partial birth procedures appeals to the majority of Americans who do not wish to make all abortions illegal but support reasonable restrictions?

Do Democrats really think bragging about the passage of ObamaCare, a vast expansion of government power that restricted religious freedom and which is deeply unpopular with most Americans, as something they think will persuade undecided voters to back the president?

Many have questioned whether Mitt Romney can appeal to the political center and whether his campaign thinks they can win only by mobilizing the Republican base. But the GOP answered these challenges by devoting much of their infomercial to trying to persuade the center to think twice about four more years of Obama. But Democrats appear to believe they don’t need to appeal to anyone but those on the left.

Read Less

For Liberals It’s Always 1936

On June 14th, 1936, two days after Alf Landon accepted the nomination of the Republican Party for president, a New York Times columnist wrote:

The stage show looked like America, but the convention hall did not. The crowd seemed like the sanctuary of a minority — economically wounded capitalists in shades from eggshell to ecru, cheering the man . . . and trying to fathom why they’re not running the country anymore. The speakers ranted about an America in decline, but the audience reflected a party in decline.

Oh, wait a minute. My mistake. That was Maureen Dowd writing yesterday. My, how time stands still when you’re having fun.

Read More

On June 14th, 1936, two days after Alf Landon accepted the nomination of the Republican Party for president, a New York Times columnist wrote:

The stage show looked like America, but the convention hall did not. The crowd seemed like the sanctuary of a minority — economically wounded capitalists in shades from eggshell to ecru, cheering the man . . . and trying to fathom why they’re not running the country anymore. The speakers ranted about an America in decline, but the audience reflected a party in decline.

Oh, wait a minute. My mistake. That was Maureen Dowd writing yesterday. My, how time stands still when you’re having fun.

In 1936, the Republicans were indeed wondering why they weren’t still running the country. They had been, after all, since 1896, with the exception of 1913-1921, when a split in the party had given the election to Woodrow Wilson. And they certainly hankered for a return to the glory days of Calvin Coolidge, while the Democrats recognized that the Great Depression had changed things forever. While the country was still mired in depression, it was in much better shape than it had been four years earlier. In 1936, unemployment averaged a dismal 16.9 percent. But that was down from over 25 percent. The Dow reached 194.40 in June 1936. It had been at 40.21 in June 1932, barely half a point above its first-ever close in 1896.

In his great Second Inaugural Address (after trouncing Alf Landon in the election) FDR said, quite accurately, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” But as Michael Ledeen points out, the economic world of 1936 is a vanished world. No one today in this country lives in anything like the sort of poverty that millions of sharecroppers in the South and unskilled industrial laborers in the North knew in 1936. By the standards of 1936, most American families are filthy rich and those who aren’t receive massive assistance to raise them above the poverty line.

The national debt in 1936 was 40 percent of GDP. Today it is over 100 percent. The deficit in 1936 was 5.5 percent of GDP, this year it will be over 7 percent.

But for liberals like Maureen Dowd it is always 1936. The problems of 1936 are the problems today. The solutions for 1936 are the solutions for today. And the Republicans are a few people in mink coats and dinner jackets going down to the long-vanished Trans-Lux theater to hiss Roosevelt.

Read Less

Conventional Rhetoric

Listening to three days of the Republican Convention, I was struck by some very effective speeches (Governor Susana Martinez, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio), one shall we say idiosyncratic speech (Clint Eastwood), and the nominee’s own, which if not a modern-day Cross of Gold was certainly more than adequate.

The best line, undoubtedly, was, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.” In one sentence it contrasted President Obama’s unpleasant narcissism and Romney’s instinctive self-deprecation, Obama’s utter disregard (even after the severe rebuke of the 2010 election) of what the country wanted him to work on in order to pursue his own personal agenda, and Romney’s concentration on the ailing American economy and the impending fiscal crisis. It reminded me a bit of what is surely the best pun in American political history, Gerald Ford’s “I’m a Ford not a Lincoln.”

Read More

Listening to three days of the Republican Convention, I was struck by some very effective speeches (Governor Susana Martinez, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio), one shall we say idiosyncratic speech (Clint Eastwood), and the nominee’s own, which if not a modern-day Cross of Gold was certainly more than adequate.

The best line, undoubtedly, was, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.” In one sentence it contrasted President Obama’s unpleasant narcissism and Romney’s instinctive self-deprecation, Obama’s utter disregard (even after the severe rebuke of the 2010 election) of what the country wanted him to work on in order to pursue his own personal agenda, and Romney’s concentration on the ailing American economy and the impending fiscal crisis. It reminded me a bit of what is surely the best pun in American political history, Gerald Ford’s “I’m a Ford not a Lincoln.”

Obama, a mountain of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, regards himself as a Lincoln at the very least. Romney regards himself as a man who has a job to do.

But I was also struck by a rhetorical dog that didn’t bark in the night. The word “mom” rang through the hall repeatedly. But, at least judging from the convention rhetoric, the word “mother” has completely dropped out of the American lexicon. If it was used even once, I missed it.

When I was growing up, “Mom” was a term of address, used only in the vocative. (Well, not to my mother. For some reason she hated the word and when we were young my brother and I called her “Mum,” which is just the British equivalent, although my mother was not British. By the time we were nine or ten we called her Mother.) Today, mom is used in all cases (“American moms,” “tell your mom,” “your mom’s apple pie”). The word survives only as metaphor (“the mother of all battles”).

I suppose it is just an example of the ever-increasing informalization of the language (in the 19th century it was not uncommon for upper-class kids to use the Latin terms Mater and Pater in addressing their parents). But, at least to my aging ears, it sounds off key.

Read Less

GOP Convention Lesson: Biography Matters

The electoral strategies of both the Republican and Democratic parties contain an element of identity politics, though generally of very different kinds. Republican identity politics usually centers on faith and a middle America culture distinct from the coastal elitism of the Democrats. The Democratic Party bases its electoral strategy more and more on race to the exclusion of almost anything else, though this year the Obama White House has conjured a “war on women” to highlight gender as well.

Republicans and conservatives often complain that the Democrats’ race-obsessed political outlook has two major faults: one, that candidates and voters are judged to an overwhelming degree on the color of their skin, and two, that when a member of a racial or ethnic minority group that usually votes Democratic becomes a high-profile Republican, the left seeks to destroy their career with unusual ferocity. (Think Miguel Estrada, Clarence Thomas.) But at the Republican National Convention this week conservatives saw just why the left’s identity politics can be so effective, and why they try so hard to tear down any dissenters: biography matters.

Read More

The electoral strategies of both the Republican and Democratic parties contain an element of identity politics, though generally of very different kinds. Republican identity politics usually centers on faith and a middle America culture distinct from the coastal elitism of the Democrats. The Democratic Party bases its electoral strategy more and more on race to the exclusion of almost anything else, though this year the Obama White House has conjured a “war on women” to highlight gender as well.

Republicans and conservatives often complain that the Democrats’ race-obsessed political outlook has two major faults: one, that candidates and voters are judged to an overwhelming degree on the color of their skin, and two, that when a member of a racial or ethnic minority group that usually votes Democratic becomes a high-profile Republican, the left seeks to destroy their career with unusual ferocity. (Think Miguel Estrada, Clarence Thomas.) But at the Republican National Convention this week conservatives saw just why the left’s identity politics can be so effective, and why they try so hard to tear down any dissenters: biography matters.

Of the politicians who spoke this week, easily three of the most impressive were Condoleezza Rice, Marco Rubio, and Susana Martinez. Their values are conservative values, and their political outlooks consistent with the conservative movement’s message: America is a place where, thanks to freedom and free enterprise, anyone can succeed. But, as the Democrats learned with President Obama, when you have spokesmen for that vision who embody the potential for its greatest achievement, the words take on a heft they don’t possess when spoken by others.

So when the preternaturally likeable Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico who is also the country’s first Hispanic female governor, took the stage, she said: “Growing up, I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. But this is America. Y, en America todo es possible.” It’s a simple message and one that American politicians repeat quite often (though not always in Spanish). But it meant a bit more coming from Martinez, who told a charming story about how little girls often see her in public places, stare, point, and finally run up to her and ask “Are you Susana?” and then hug her.

And when Condoleezza Rice said that “Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement,” it was all the more powerful because she also said this:

And on a personal note—a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham–the most segregated big city in America–her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant–but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be president of the United States. And she becomes the secretary of state.

Rubio, as the son of Cuban immigrants and now a popular senator from Florida, often speaks about American Exceptionalism in the tone, and with the authority, of someone who is only standing before you because of that exceptionalism. Biography was a centerpiece of his address as well. He said:

A few years ago during a speech, I noticed a bartender behind a portable bar at the back of the ballroom. I remembered my father who had worked for many years as a banquet bartender. He was grateful for the work he had, but that’s not the life he wanted for us.

He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.

That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle — that we’re exceptional not because we have more rich people here. We’re special because dreams that are impossible anywhere else, come true here.

That’s not just my story. That’s your story. That’s our story.

That last bit is a particularly effective line, since the conservative movement has consistently stressed the fact that this country was founded on an idea, and it is that idea, rather than a common ethnic heritage, that produces a national identity.

Martinez recounted the story of when, before her campaign for district attorney, two Republicans invited her and her husband for lunch. Martinez knew they were going to try to convince her to join the Republican Party, but she didn’t take the idea seriously. They never asked her to switch parties—they didn’t have to. At the end of the conversation about a whole range of political issues, Martinez turned to her husband as they left and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans.”

That’s because the conservative message has broad appeal. But the convention seems to have shown that conservatives have realized how well that message translates across cultures, and the personal engagement that is sometimes necessary to get it across. The message doesn’t have to change, but sometimes the choice of messenger is just as important.

Read Less

Republican Convention Winners and Losers

After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.

We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.

Read More

After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.

We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.

Winners

Mitt Romney: The candidate did everything he needed to do in his acceptance speech. The address managed to overcome the handicap of his low-key personality and reluctance to talk about himself, while revealing his intense patriotism as well as his love of family and the importance of his faith. But the speeches by his wife and those families that he helped while serving as a Mormon lay leader did even more to humanize a man the Democrats have gone all out to demonize. After hearing the Oparowskis talk about his loving friendship for a dying boy, it’s going to be tough for liberals to keep yapping about him killing people at Bain or the dog on the roof. Romney emerges from the convention with a strong running mate, a party united in its dislike of his opponent and some wind in his sails. We’ll find out in November if that is enough but right now, he’s looking stronger than he has all year.

Paul Ryan: The intense effort by the liberal media to try and debunk his smashing acceptance speech is testimony to how scared they are of him. The left has to falsely brand him a liar because now that America has gotten a good look at him, it’s not going to be possible to depict him as throwing granny off the cliff anymore. Ryan doesn’t just leave the convention with his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party intact. Republicans clearly love him more than the top of the ticket but their affection seems matched by Romney’s for his choice. And if you’re thinking about 2016 if Romney loses, Ryan is now automatically at the top of the list.

Marco Rubio: Rubio had the disconcerting task of following Clint Eastwood’s bizarre act. But he gave a speech that was second only to that of Condoleezza Rice’s address in terms of eloquence. Like Chris Christie, he talked a lot about himself rather than Romney but he still tied his story to that of Romney in a credible manner. He showed us that he is the most natural speaker of the GOP’s young guns. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t be on the ticket the next time the nomination is open.

Susana Martinez: Martinez was just a name and a statistic — the first female Hispanic governor — to most Republicans before she spoke on Wednesday. But even though she had the misfortune of following Condi Rice on the platform, she still earned the love of the delegates and, no doubt, much of the television audience, with her plucky style. Her comments about packing a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum delighted them and her, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans,” may have been the best line of the convention. She’s someone with a big future in national politics. Honorable mentions should also go to Mia B. Love and Sher Valenzuela. Both also will be heard from again.

Jeb Bush: Given the talented GOP bench that was on display this week, it looks as though Jeb Bush is going to have a steep hill to climb if he ever decides to try and follow his father and brother into the White House. But he scored in his speech both by defending his brother against President Obama’s attempt to blame him for everything and by making the case for school choice. Bush may never be president but he’s still a party favorite and Romney should definitely be thinking of him as a possible Secretary of Education.

Losers

Rick Santorum: Given that a year ago neither most pundits nor I though he had a chance in hell to even make it through the primaries, let alone be Romney’s toughest foe, it’s probably unfair to cast him as a loser. Nor did I think his convention speech was as bad as a lot of people labeled it. For me, it was Santorum at his best, as he talked about his values without lapsing into the angry guy persona that is his greatest weakness. But this week showed that any hopes Santorum might have of winning the nomination in 2016 are quixotic. For all of the grit he showed last winter and spring when he won more than a dozen primaries and caucuses, it’s impossible to imagine him besting stars like Ryan, Rubio or Christie. Santorum’s moment has passed.

Chris Christie: I disagree with those who termed his keynote address a failure since it was all about himself rather than extolling Romney. But sometimes a consensus of pundits can help shape public perceptions and I fear that a year from now it will have become conventional wisdom that he really did flop in the spotlight even though the speech was actually quite good and set the right tone for the party’s future which is the traditional purpose of a keynote. But even if posterity agrees with me rather than the most of the rest of the chattering classes, I still have to concede that the New Jersey governor doesn’t stack up that well when compared to the men who may be his primary competition in 2016 should Romney lose. Christie has a lot of moxie but he’s not as likeable or as much of a star as Ryan and Rubio. But perhaps a convention that is viewed as a slight setback will do him good, as it will focus the governor and his supporters on the formidable task of securing his re-election rather than pipe dreams about 2016 or 2020.

Sarah Palin: The comparison between Palin’s standing in the GOP isn’t so much between the present and her dazzling debut at the 2008 convention but between now and the early summer of 2011, when her mere appearance in the lower 48 seemed to briefly suck all the oxygen out of the GOP race. Over the course of the last 15 months she went from being a superstar to an afterthought and may even be in danger of losing her gig at Fox News, which is her last claim to prominence. Palin still has a cadre of faithful followers who can be relied upon to angrily and sometimes profanely protest whenever she is referred to in less than laudatory terms. But Tampa proved what we already knew about her. She’s yesterday’s news.

Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman and John Thune: Listening to any member of this trio, it was hard to figure out why anyone ever thought they were presidential material. Thune was simply a dud. One wag replied to my criticism of his talk on Twitter by pointing out, “you can hire a speech coach but you can’t fix ugly.” That’s true but Thune is proof that you need more than good looks to be taken seriously. As for Pawlenty and Portman’s speeches, the less we speak of them, the better. Suffice it to say that Romney made himself look like a genius by having them come on prior to Paul Ryan’s star turn.

Lastly, I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later whoever it was inside Romney’s camp that had the bright idea of inviting Clint Eastwood to be the mystery speaker at the convention. But for his or her sake, we should hope they remain forever anonymous. That person probably shouldn’t be completely blamed for Eastwood discarding his planned remarks and providing what was one of the most embarrassing moments in modern political convention history. But I doubt either party will ever take that kind of a chance again.

Read Less

The Speech Romney Needed to Give

Mitt Romney delivered exactly the speech he needed to give last night, no more and no less. His job was to show his human side (as Jonathan wrote) and present himself as presidential, while also reaching out to key groups (women, independents, disenchanted Obama voters). He checked all of those boxes.

There were moving lines in the speech (the rose anecdote, the remarks about children growing up), but Romney seems to know his strengths, and didn’t try to compete against the superstar speakers like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Chris Christie. It wouldn’t have worked, and he didn’t need to, anyway. The whole convention lineup leading up to Romney’s speech was effective at personalizing him, vouching for his character, elucidating the Romney-Ryan vision, and offering an ideological critique of Obama’s presidency. By the time Romney took the stage, most of it had already been said; he just had to get the convention over the finish line.

Read More

Mitt Romney delivered exactly the speech he needed to give last night, no more and no less. His job was to show his human side (as Jonathan wrote) and present himself as presidential, while also reaching out to key groups (women, independents, disenchanted Obama voters). He checked all of those boxes.

There were moving lines in the speech (the rose anecdote, the remarks about children growing up), but Romney seems to know his strengths, and didn’t try to compete against the superstar speakers like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Chris Christie. It wouldn’t have worked, and he didn’t need to, anyway. The whole convention lineup leading up to Romney’s speech was effective at personalizing him, vouching for his character, elucidating the Romney-Ryan vision, and offering an ideological critique of Obama’s presidency. By the time Romney took the stage, most of it had already been said; he just had to get the convention over the finish line.

Some wondered why Romney didn’t offer more policy details. After the full-fledged media assault on Paul Ryan yesterday — which was baseless, and ended up detracting from the coverage of an excellent speech — why should Romney have put himself in the same position? While I agree that he has to put out more details on his tax, budget and Medicare plans, he did not have to do it last night. He can do that on the campaign trail or on his website. Voters already trust him over Obama on economic issues. Where Romney lags is on empathy — Americans don’t believe he cares about the struggles of others as much as Obama does. That was the gap he was working on closing last night.

Read Less

Romney Passes His Big Test

Heading into the Republican National Convention, the big question for Republicans was whether their candidate could be humanized as well as whether he could deliver an acceptance speech that could properly launch the fall campaign. At the conclusion of the convention, the answer to both questions is an unequivocal yes.

Over the course of the three days, viewers got a better idea of who the man Republicans were nominating. They heard stories about his humanity, service to others and his faith as well as his business success. And in his acceptance speech, he showed himself a plainspoken man who was moved by the ordinary gifts of life as well as by his love of country. It may not have been a great speech but it was probably the best one he has ever given on a night when he needed to be come across as more than a middling political talent. Though no acceptance speech is really the make or break moment of any presidential election, Romney passed the test he had been set.

Read More

Heading into the Republican National Convention, the big question for Republicans was whether their candidate could be humanized as well as whether he could deliver an acceptance speech that could properly launch the fall campaign. At the conclusion of the convention, the answer to both questions is an unequivocal yes.

Over the course of the three days, viewers got a better idea of who the man Republicans were nominating. They heard stories about his humanity, service to others and his faith as well as his business success. And in his acceptance speech, he showed himself a plainspoken man who was moved by the ordinary gifts of life as well as by his love of country. It may not have been a great speech but it was probably the best one he has ever given on a night when he needed to be come across as more than a middling political talent. Though no acceptance speech is really the make or break moment of any presidential election, Romney passed the test he had been set.

In a sense, the Democrats did Romney a favor by spending the last few months doing their best to demonize him. With the left determined to portray him as a heartless plutocrat the bar was set fairly low for Romney as far as brightening up his image. While the convention had its less than edifying moments — Clint Eastwood’s bizarre and sometimes tasteless dialogue with an imaginary Barack Obama being the most prominent — the time spent discussing Romney’s life and philosophy was very well spent.

Beginning with Ann Romney’s star turn on Tuesday night and continuing on Thursday with the testimonials from those whose families the candidate had helped as a Mormon lay leader, the nation was given a more realistic portrait of the man the Democrats have sought to besmirch. Though Romney is obviously not comfortable talking about himself, he was able to convey some of his depth of feeling about his family, his faith and his principles.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the convention was the way it showed how deep the Republican bench is with new stars like Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, Chris Christie and Romney’s vice presidential choice Paul Ryan. But as much as a lot of the attention was devoted to these new faces, Romney still succeeded in putting forward a strong case that he has the ability to tackle a weak economy and the backbone to stand up for American interests and the cause of freedom. He also came across as an admirable if not as likeable as some critics seemed to demand.

Romney touched on familiar themes about Obama’s failures as well as trying to counter the Democratic charge that the GOP is waging a war on women. But when Romney contrasted the president’s messianic pledge about turning back the oceans with his own more humble promise to help American families, he struck exactly the right note. By choosing Ryan and by setting forth a critique of Obama’s creed of big government, Romney also gave voters a clearly delineated choice about the future of the country.

Romney has now passed the humanity test and showed he can articulate a coherent argument for his presidential ambitions. The stage is now set for a fall campaign in which the Republicans are no longer facing quite as uphill a slog as many thought they would have. President Obama has enormous advantages heading into his own convention. He has the power of incumbency, a status as an historic figure, an adoring mainstream media and a party that is willing to brand any criticism of him as a form of racism. Yet this week, Romney took an important step toward giving himself a chance to win in November.

Read Less

The Man the Republicans Nominated

We’ve heard a lot of political rhetoric this week from the Republican National Convention. Most of it centered on President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” quote and other GOP talking points. Paul Ryan showed his party was ready to rumble with the Democrats in defense of a stand in favor of entitlement reform. But tonight for the first time this week and perhaps even this year, we’re hearing about who this man the Republicans nominated really is.

This evening, we heard from those who worked with and were helped by Romney during his years as a Mormon pastor. The Oparowski family spoke of how Romney befriended their 14-year-old son who was dying from Leukemia. It was a sad touching story and the reaction from the audience showed there didn’t appear to be a dry eye in the house except perhaps in the MSNBC booth. After that we heard from a woman with a similar story of Romney’s goodness. His assistant pastor told of how Romney didn’t so much preach as lead by example. His theology was service to others. No matter what your faith is or even if you don’t believe in religion, there is no escaping the fact that this is a righteous and very good man.

A major aspect of the way we judge presidential candidates is by their character. Disagree with his policies if you like, but there’s no doubt that this is a man of sterling character whose personal virtues are beyond question. Given the vicious attacks launched against Romney’s character by the Obama campaign, these are stories that need to be told and retold by Republicans.

We’ve heard a lot of political rhetoric this week from the Republican National Convention. Most of it centered on President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” quote and other GOP talking points. Paul Ryan showed his party was ready to rumble with the Democrats in defense of a stand in favor of entitlement reform. But tonight for the first time this week and perhaps even this year, we’re hearing about who this man the Republicans nominated really is.

This evening, we heard from those who worked with and were helped by Romney during his years as a Mormon pastor. The Oparowski family spoke of how Romney befriended their 14-year-old son who was dying from Leukemia. It was a sad touching story and the reaction from the audience showed there didn’t appear to be a dry eye in the house except perhaps in the MSNBC booth. After that we heard from a woman with a similar story of Romney’s goodness. His assistant pastor told of how Romney didn’t so much preach as lead by example. His theology was service to others. No matter what your faith is or even if you don’t believe in religion, there is no escaping the fact that this is a righteous and very good man.

A major aspect of the way we judge presidential candidates is by their character. Disagree with his policies if you like, but there’s no doubt that this is a man of sterling character whose personal virtues are beyond question. Given the vicious attacks launched against Romney’s character by the Obama campaign, these are stories that need to be told and retold by Republicans.

Read Less

Romney Campaign Plays Up Bain Record

Mitt Romney continued his Bain Capital defense blitz today, unveiling a website and video campaign touting his record at the firm. The name of his new website, SterlingBusinessCareer.com, alludes to Bill Clinton’s praise of Romney a few months back. The videos feature former Bain employees extolling Romney’s work at the helm of the company:

Despite Obama’s barrage of attacks on Romney’s Bain record, it’s not clear whether the attacks have stuck. The Obama campaign has hammered almost every conceivable anti-Bain angle, going so far as to suggest Romney committed a felony on the company’s SEC filings. What else do they have to say on the topic? They’re running out of stories.

Read More

Mitt Romney continued his Bain Capital defense blitz today, unveiling a website and video campaign touting his record at the firm. The name of his new website, SterlingBusinessCareer.com, alludes to Bill Clinton’s praise of Romney a few months back. The videos feature former Bain employees extolling Romney’s work at the helm of the company:

Despite Obama’s barrage of attacks on Romney’s Bain record, it’s not clear whether the attacks have stuck. The Obama campaign has hammered almost every conceivable anti-Bain angle, going so far as to suggest Romney committed a felony on the company’s SEC filings. What else do they have to say on the topic? They’re running out of stories.

In contrast, there are plenty of Bain successes the Romney campaign can highlight. As his website notes, 80 percent of the companies in the firm’s portfolio have increased revenues since its founding. The media focus on the relatively few companies that filed for bankruptcy — 5 percent, according to the Romney campaign — has given a distorted view of Bain. And much of the information on his website and in the videos will probably be new, even to Romney supporters.

Read Less

Mitt Romney’s Moment

Since the real drama of the political nominating conventions—the actual nominations—no longer applies, the pressure is on the big names, especially the headliners, to deliver a rousing speech. The press corps still have stories to file from the conventions, and “Republicans nominate Mitt Romney for president” just isn’t going to cut it—we all knew that going in. So the speeches themselves—words, not action—become the moments to analyze.

The expectations only build as the nights wear on–as Chris Christie found out when he delivered a solid speech but had to follow Ann Romney’s blockbuster. Last night, it seemed for a while that Paul Ryan would not have too high a bar to clear–until Condoleezza Rice brought the house down. But Ryan rose to the occasion nonetheless. Tonight, it’s Mitt Romney’s turn, and he will be swinging for the fences. The Washington Post reports that Romney is taking the task as seriously as expected:

Read More

Since the real drama of the political nominating conventions—the actual nominations—no longer applies, the pressure is on the big names, especially the headliners, to deliver a rousing speech. The press corps still have stories to file from the conventions, and “Republicans nominate Mitt Romney for president” just isn’t going to cut it—we all knew that going in. So the speeches themselves—words, not action—become the moments to analyze.

The expectations only build as the nights wear on–as Chris Christie found out when he delivered a solid speech but had to follow Ann Romney’s blockbuster. Last night, it seemed for a while that Paul Ryan would not have too high a bar to clear–until Condoleezza Rice brought the house down. But Ryan rose to the occasion nonetheless. Tonight, it’s Mitt Romney’s turn, and he will be swinging for the fences. The Washington Post reports that Romney is taking the task as seriously as expected:

So it is that as Romney prepared to deliver the most important speech of his political career Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, he spent months reading past nominating and inaugural speeches (including President Obama’s) and biographies. By the middle of last week, as the guts of the speech were coming together, he asserted, in a conversation with an associate, “I still have to write it.” On Friday, Romney told talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, “Mine is still a work in progress, kind of early stage.”

Over the weekend, Romney took two days off the campaign trail to finish his drafts and rehearse with teleprompters at his New Hampshire getaway home. When reporters asked him after one rehearsal for a sneak peak of his speech, Romney previewed just five words: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.” He was laughing, but advisers said the rest was in fact still subject to change.

On Wednesday, advisers were chiming in on this line or that line. One of them said that Romney will keep tinkering until just before he steps onto the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired convention stage shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday – because, well, “he just likes to tinker.”

Yet Romney’s speech tonight, more perhaps than is usual for such addresses, is a genuinely fascinating moment in American politics. Romney’s journey from governor of Massachusetts to presidential contender to presidential nominee was a rollercoaster. If you want to understand just how differently Romney was perceived by the Republican electorate in 2008, watch his (energetic, but substandard) convention address from four years ago. He gets a full minute standing ovation from the crowd before he utters a word.

And as I have written before, watching Romney’s address to CPAC in 2008 is like stepping into an alternate universe. He is the free market hero they’ve been waiting for who, to their vivid disappointment, could not wrest the nomination from the campaign-finance regulator McCain. Yet after Obamacare passed, the original suspicion with which the conservative movement viewed Romney for his previous stance on abortion returned, ironically at the moment the country seemed desperate for an economic guru.

But Romney kept a cool head throughout, and earned the nomination—he outraised, outdebated, and finally outran his rivals. Romney has always struggled when he has tried to be what he thought the conservative movement wanted him to be, rather than trying to show the party’s base they should want him as-is. For good or ill, those days are behind him now. Tonight he’ll deliver a speech he’s thought about for at least five years, despite being written off and counted out numerous times throughout. For a man of uncommon equanimity, and in the era of scripted and predictable conventions, that’s high drama.

Read Less

After RNC Triumph, Whither Condi Rice?

Count me among the many who were wowed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s brilliant speech at the Republican National Convention last night. She didn’t just add a note of foreign policy gravitas to a convention that served up a seemingly endless roster of mid-level GOP figures riffing on President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” gaffe. Rice’s address was as much about belief in the idea of America as it was about contemporary political disputes. She left the podium not only having won the hearts of the audience with her recollection of her own rise from a childhood in the segregated south to the heights of power but left a lot of her listeners wondering whether she was interested in a future run at the presidency and making comparisons to other great convention speeches in the past that were stepping-stones to the White House.

However, those so intoxicated by her rhetorical achievement that they are now pondering Rice’s future need to take a deep breath. It was a great speech and Rice has shown she can be a formidable surrogate for Mitt Romney or anyone else she chooses to support. But Rice is never going to be a viable presidential candidate. Nor is she likely to assume any post in a Romney administration. I can’t answer the question on so many tongues this morning about what it is that Condi Rice wants. Only she can do that. But a logical analysis of her prospects requires us to accept that whatever it is she aspires to, high political office isn’t likely to be in her future.

Read More

Count me among the many who were wowed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s brilliant speech at the Republican National Convention last night. She didn’t just add a note of foreign policy gravitas to a convention that served up a seemingly endless roster of mid-level GOP figures riffing on President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” gaffe. Rice’s address was as much about belief in the idea of America as it was about contemporary political disputes. She left the podium not only having won the hearts of the audience with her recollection of her own rise from a childhood in the segregated south to the heights of power but left a lot of her listeners wondering whether she was interested in a future run at the presidency and making comparisons to other great convention speeches in the past that were stepping-stones to the White House.

However, those so intoxicated by her rhetorical achievement that they are now pondering Rice’s future need to take a deep breath. It was a great speech and Rice has shown she can be a formidable surrogate for Mitt Romney or anyone else she chooses to support. But Rice is never going to be a viable presidential candidate. Nor is she likely to assume any post in a Romney administration. I can’t answer the question on so many tongues this morning about what it is that Condi Rice wants. Only she can do that. But a logical analysis of her prospects requires us to accept that whatever it is she aspires to, high political office isn’t likely to be in her future.

Rice is an exceptional human being and when stacked up against the vast majority of politicians, she looks like she belongs in a higher league than the one in which garden variety governors, senators and members of Congress play. But she has never run for political office and those who believe she could parachute into a tough GOP presidential nomination fight are underestimating the difficulty of such a feat. She could certainly raise the money for such a race but it is difficult to imagine her spending 2015 (assuming Romney doesn’t win this fall) beating the bushes at Iowa county fairs three summers from now.

But even if she was willing to give up her comfortable life at Stanford University and other celebrity perks, like her new membership at the Augusta National Golf Club, as long as Rice is pro-choice on abortion, she has no chance of winning a Republican presidential nomination. This is something that was pointed out last month during the brief unrealistic boomlet seeking to promote her as a possible vice presidential nominee. Rice isn’t the only prominent Republican who supports abortion but the vast majority of those who vote in primaries are very much on the other side. It’s a handicap that would make a presidential quest on her part a pipe dream, especially when a 2016 race would probably include pro-life GOP stars like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie.

That’s a fact that Mitt Romney understood when he started on his seven-year-old quest for the presidency and one that others who fell by the wayside, like Rudolph Giuliani, would have to learn the hard way. Rice is too smart not to know this, so I can’t imagine her even trying.

As for lesser posts, it’s equally hard to see where she would fit in a future Romney administration. Having been secretary of state, it’s impossible to imagine she would take a lower level cabinet post or foreign policy job. Unless she wants another shot at running the State Department, which seems unlikely to me, she’s overqualified for any other position.

Nor do I find the speculation about her running for office in California very convincing. Having seen impressive Republican women like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman fall short in that deep blue state, it’s hard to see why Rice would do any better.

The Republican Convention has served up an impressive slate of women speakers. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, who had the difficult task of following Rice, was one. But though she may not have been as dazzling as Rice, she has a brighter political future simply because she fits into the mainstream of her party on abortion and other social issues.

Hard as it is for some pundits to admit, a good speech is sometimes just a stepping-stone to nothing other than opportunities to give other good speeches. While I was no fan of many of her policies at the State Department, Rice is a star and the Republicans are lucky to have her on their side. But it’s difficult to see any realistic scenario in which she can be said to have a political future.

Read Less

Fact-Checkers Wrong on Ryan GM Claim

The Associated Press and other fact-checkers are insisting that the line about the Janesville GM factory in Paul Ryan’s speech last night was inaccurate — and once again, the fact-checkers are wrong. Here’s the AP’s allegation against Ryan:

RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. “A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”

THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants — though not the Janesville facility — to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.

The AP might want to check back on its own reporting on the plant closure, starting with this article from April 19, 2009, headlined “GM plant in Janesville to close for good this week”:

Read More

The Associated Press and other fact-checkers are insisting that the line about the Janesville GM factory in Paul Ryan’s speech last night was inaccurate — and once again, the fact-checkers are wrong. Here’s the AP’s allegation against Ryan:

RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. “A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”

THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants — though not the Janesville facility — to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.

The AP might want to check back on its own reporting on the plant closure, starting with this article from April 19, 2009, headlined “GM plant in Janesville to close for good this week”:

Production at the General Motors plant in Janesville is scheduled to end for good this week.

GM spokesman Christopher Lee says operations at the southern Wisconsin plant will cease Thursday.

About 1,200 employees were let go just before Christmas when GM ended SUV production at the plant.

Some 100 workers were retained to finish an order of small- to medium-duty trucks for Isuzu Motors Ltd.

Lee says most of those workers will be laid off Thursday. He says others will be kept on to help guide the plant’s shutdown.

The Janesville plant ended its SUV production line and laid off over 1,000 workers in December 2008, but the plant didn’t officially close. It continued to churn out an order of Isuzu trucks until April 2009, while the local union lobbied GM for a lifeline. In May, GM put the plant onto standby, meaning that it wasn’t completely shutting the door on it. There was some hope the plant would be able to resume production — and Wisconsin’s bipartisan congressional delegation, including Paul Ryan, scrambled to find a way to keep it alive — but it never happened.

To simply say that the plant “halted production” in December 2008, like AP does, is both inaccurate and misleading. It was more complicated than that. If the media wants to criticize Ryan for not being “nuanced” enough and failing to praise Obama for brilliantly saving GM, that’s fine. But Ryan’s comments weren’t inaccurate.

Read Less

Romney’s Convention Bounce

Some good news for the Romney campaign this morning. Mitt Romney hasn’t even made his convention speech yet, and he’s already seeing a small bump in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll:

Republican Mitt Romney pulled even with President Barack Obama in a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Wednesday, getting a boost from his party’s nominating convention in Tampa this week.

In a four-day rolling poll, Romney and Obama were deadlocked among likely voters at 43 percent each. That was an improvement for Romney from Obama’s two-point lead on Tuesday and four-point lead on Monday.

“There is movement toward Romney, which is traditional for a convention,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. “It’s small and the change is incremental, but it’s been moving the last couple of days.”

Read More

Some good news for the Romney campaign this morning. Mitt Romney hasn’t even made his convention speech yet, and he’s already seeing a small bump in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll:

Republican Mitt Romney pulled even with President Barack Obama in a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Wednesday, getting a boost from his party’s nominating convention in Tampa this week.

In a four-day rolling poll, Romney and Obama were deadlocked among likely voters at 43 percent each. That was an improvement for Romney from Obama’s two-point lead on Tuesday and four-point lead on Monday.

“There is movement toward Romney, which is traditional for a convention,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. “It’s small and the change is incremental, but it’s been moving the last couple of days.”

There was concern that Hurricane Isaac and the Todd Akin incident would overshadow the convention, but we haven’t seen that happen. While Romney isn’t expected to get a major bounce from this week, he already appears to be on par with candidates from previous years. Nate Silver writes that the benchmark for a convention bounce is around 4 points, and Romney is already there (at least in the Reuters poll), with one big day left to go.

Read Less

The Most Important Part of Ryan’s Speech

Day two of the Republican convention showed no sign of letting up on its “you didn’t build that” theme, though the formal premise of the night was a slight adjustment to it: the phrase “we can change it.” But in a somewhat surprising moment, Paul Ryan seemed to accept the Obama administration’s complaint that the quote was taken out of context. Ryan offered an alternative riff on the phrase, implicitly explaining to the president why the context doesn’t exonerate him.

The president and his allies say that in context, it’s clear the president meant that government deserves some, but not all, the credit for these businesses for maintaining American infrastructure. But the full context, as I have written before, doesn’t help the president much because of the way he seemed to be mocking those who were successful. In a derisive tone, Obama said: “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.” So last night, Ryan said this:

Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing.  All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere.  A lot of heart goes into each one.  And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place.  Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning.  Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them.  After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit.  What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.

Read More

Day two of the Republican convention showed no sign of letting up on its “you didn’t build that” theme, though the formal premise of the night was a slight adjustment to it: the phrase “we can change it.” But in a somewhat surprising moment, Paul Ryan seemed to accept the Obama administration’s complaint that the quote was taken out of context. Ryan offered an alternative riff on the phrase, implicitly explaining to the president why the context doesn’t exonerate him.

The president and his allies say that in context, it’s clear the president meant that government deserves some, but not all, the credit for these businesses for maintaining American infrastructure. But the full context, as I have written before, doesn’t help the president much because of the way he seemed to be mocking those who were successful. In a derisive tone, Obama said: “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.” So last night, Ryan said this:

Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing.  All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere.  A lot of heart goes into each one.  And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place.  Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning.  Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them.  After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit.  What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.

In other words: yes, Mr. President, sometimes people worked harder than their competitors, worked their fingers to the bone, so to speak, and realized their dream. They are not, Ryan said, trying to take full credit for it, but they were the ones who took the risk, went to sleep every night hoping to provide for their family in the morning, got up when it was still dark and went to sleep when it was dark again, to make it happen. They didn’t win the lottery, and they didn’t succeed because of handouts. They understand they got help along the way, but that help doesn’t diminish their effort and doesn’t deserve dismissive sneering from their president.

It was a much more mature and empathetic handling of the “you didn’t build that” line than any other mention of it thus far at the convention—and it’s been mentioned quite a lot. Projecting that maturity was certainly one of the goals for Ryan’s big introduction to the country. And demonstrating empathy was just as important, since the president and the media constantly seek to portray conservatives as heartless capitalists. But who understands the struggling business owner better, Obama or Ryan? Judging by their respective speeches, it’s Ryan by a mile.

Read Less

Ryan’s Star Turn Shows GOP Ready to Rumble on Medicare

When Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate Democrats rejoiced. They were sure that the elevation of the author of the Republican Congress budget plan that called for reform of entitlements like Medicare guaranteed the president’s re-election. They had already been planning to run hard against the Ryan budget no matter who was on the GOP ticket. But having Ryan as their piñata seemed like a dream come true.

But tonight at the Republican National Convention, as Ryan got his prime time spot accepting his nomination, the rest of the country began to understand why conservatives have been so devoted to him. Ryan’s speech was not merely well executed but an example of how he earned his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party. Even more important, he showed that he and the man at the top of the ticket plan to run on the reformist ideas that Democrats think work to their advantage. Far from shying away from the Obama campaign’s Mediscare tactics, they are ready to rumble on a platform aimed at saving entitlements against the status quo policies of the administration.

Read More

When Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate Democrats rejoiced. They were sure that the elevation of the author of the Republican Congress budget plan that called for reform of entitlements like Medicare guaranteed the president’s re-election. They had already been planning to run hard against the Ryan budget no matter who was on the GOP ticket. But having Ryan as their piñata seemed like a dream come true.

But tonight at the Republican National Convention, as Ryan got his prime time spot accepting his nomination, the rest of the country began to understand why conservatives have been so devoted to him. Ryan’s speech was not merely well executed but an example of how he earned his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party. Even more important, he showed that he and the man at the top of the ticket plan to run on the reformist ideas that Democrats think work to their advantage. Far from shying away from the Obama campaign’s Mediscare tactics, they are ready to rumble on a platform aimed at saving entitlements against the status quo policies of the administration.

Ryan came across as he always has in his Congressional campaigns: as a likeable man who was capable of bold attacks as well as smart ideas. The Democrats may think they can demonize the congressman but anyone who saw this speech knows that is highly unlikely. Far from being the guy who pushes granny off the cliff in the Democrats’ attack ads, Ryan was appealing–not scary or extremist, as liberals allege. But even worse for the Democrats is Ryan’s ability to turn the tables on the president. Rather than playing defense on Medicare, the GOP veep candidate made it clear that the Republican approach will be to brand ObamaCare as the greatest threat to that program. Liberals may argue that the raid on Medicare to fund the health plan is not an issue, but given the unpopularity of the measure, this is a talking point that Republicans will drive home to their advantage this fall. Instead of weak point, Ryan’s reform ideas may turn out to be the GOP’s best selling point.

Coming as it did after Condoleezza Rice’s brilliant and inspiring address to the convention as well as another strong speech by New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, there might have been some fear that Ryan couldn’t pull off a triumph this evening. But he did just that, mixing humor and sharp attacks on the president with touching evocations of the American dream. Ryan isn’t just a rising GOP star, this evening he showed that he is a major asset to Mitt Romney’s hopes of being elected president.

Read Less

More Evidence Christie Made the Right Move Last Night

Tonight, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, one of the most intelligent men in politics, gave a pretty straightforward version of the speech Chris Christie’s critics complained he had not delivered last night—full of head-on assaults on Barack Obama, praise for Romney, drawing sharp contrasts, throwing out applause lines, lots of red meat. And here’s the thing—it didn’t really work. True, Portman is not half the speaker Christie is, and doesn’t have Christie’s outsized personality. But the problem with the speech was its conception. There’s something discomfiting about the direct attack that involves beating up on someone who isn’t there to defend himself or to be defended. It doesn’t convince you unless you’re already convinced. Certainly, preaching to the choir is part of what a convention should do to fire up the delegates and workers. But Christie was delivering a nationally televised address watched by 25 million people, and for them, you have to do something else. You make your own case and you criticize the opposing view, but you have to do so in a manner that does not seem unfair, unjust, or cheap—otherwise you will lose that part of your audience you can convince. Christie focused his speech on the future, not the past. I think the Portman misfire shows that Christie did the right thing politically.

Tonight, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, one of the most intelligent men in politics, gave a pretty straightforward version of the speech Chris Christie’s critics complained he had not delivered last night—full of head-on assaults on Barack Obama, praise for Romney, drawing sharp contrasts, throwing out applause lines, lots of red meat. And here’s the thing—it didn’t really work. True, Portman is not half the speaker Christie is, and doesn’t have Christie’s outsized personality. But the problem with the speech was its conception. There’s something discomfiting about the direct attack that involves beating up on someone who isn’t there to defend himself or to be defended. It doesn’t convince you unless you’re already convinced. Certainly, preaching to the choir is part of what a convention should do to fire up the delegates and workers. But Christie was delivering a nationally televised address watched by 25 million people, and for them, you have to do something else. You make your own case and you criticize the opposing view, but you have to do so in a manner that does not seem unfair, unjust, or cheap—otherwise you will lose that part of your audience you can convince. Christie focused his speech on the future, not the past. I think the Portman misfire shows that Christie did the right thing politically.

Read Less

Rand Paul Is a Star

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the Republican surprises in the wave election of 2010, made his national debut just now at the Republican convention with what can only be described as a humdinger. He simply began his speech in the middle. “When I heard about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare,” he started, “I thought, ‘But it’s unconstitutional.’” He went on to connect his view with the views of the Federalists about limited government, connected them cleverly to the convention’s “you didn’t build that” theme, and offered a brilliantly succinct explanation of the problem with centralized populist attacks on business: “When you seek to punish Mr. Exxon Mobil, you punish the secretary who owns Exxon Mobil stock.”

Having established his bona fides as a mainstream Republican, he then dipped into his father Ron Paul’s kit bag—calling for defense cuts and offering a libertarian attack on homeland security. These were done with an artful lightness of touch his father has never displayed. “You, the individual, are the engine of America’s greatness,” he concluded.

An undeniable triumph.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the Republican surprises in the wave election of 2010, made his national debut just now at the Republican convention with what can only be described as a humdinger. He simply began his speech in the middle. “When I heard about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare,” he started, “I thought, ‘But it’s unconstitutional.’” He went on to connect his view with the views of the Federalists about limited government, connected them cleverly to the convention’s “you didn’t build that” theme, and offered a brilliantly succinct explanation of the problem with centralized populist attacks on business: “When you seek to punish Mr. Exxon Mobil, you punish the secretary who owns Exxon Mobil stock.”

Having established his bona fides as a mainstream Republican, he then dipped into his father Ron Paul’s kit bag—calling for defense cuts and offering a libertarian attack on homeland security. These were done with an artful lightness of touch his father has never displayed. “You, the individual, are the engine of America’s greatness,” he concluded.

An undeniable triumph.

Read Less

Obama Fails to Define Ryan Before Speech

The left can’t seem to figure out whether it wants to call Paul Ryan a “radical” or a “coward,”; an Ayn Rand disciple or a religious fanatic. So it’s not a surprise that the Obama campaign’s attempts to define Ryan haven’t stuck. The Fix flags a WaPo-Pew Research poll that found Americans have a hard time finding negative things to say about him:

A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll asked Americans to say what one word comes to mind when they think about the GOP vice presidential nominee. And people have a hard time finding negative things to say about him.

None of the top nine words people use to describe Ryan are are negative, and six of the nine are positive (“intelligent,” “good,” “energetic,” “honest,” etc.).

Not until you get to the 10th- and 11th-most-cited words do Democrats’ attempts to define Ryan begin to register. That’s the point at which people start describing Ryan as an “idiot” and “extremist.”

Read More

The left can’t seem to figure out whether it wants to call Paul Ryan a “radical” or a “coward,”; an Ayn Rand disciple or a religious fanatic. So it’s not a surprise that the Obama campaign’s attempts to define Ryan haven’t stuck. The Fix flags a WaPo-Pew Research poll that found Americans have a hard time finding negative things to say about him:

A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll asked Americans to say what one word comes to mind when they think about the GOP vice presidential nominee. And people have a hard time finding negative things to say about him.

None of the top nine words people use to describe Ryan are are negative, and six of the nine are positive (“intelligent,” “good,” “energetic,” “honest,” etc.).

Not until you get to the 10th- and 11th-most-cited words do Democrats’ attempts to define Ryan begin to register. That’s the point at which people start describing Ryan as an “idiot” and “extremist.”

What does this mean? The Fix’s Aaron Blake explains:

More than anything, though, it shows that Democratic attacks have yet to really sink in. Respondents actually offered nearly as many negative words as positive words, but the negative reviews are far more diffuse. Most negative words were only mentioned a handful of times, with little consensus on what’s bad about Ryan.

If Democrats’ efforts to label Ryan as an extremist who wants to end Medicare were really catching on, we would be seeing “extreme” and “Medicare” up higher. (In fact, “Medicare” wasn’t even mentioned.)

The Obama campaign’s attempts to define Paul Ryan before the convention have been a failure. When Ryan takes the stage at the convention tonight to officially introduce himself to the country, he’ll likely to be speaking to people who already have a generally positive or neutral view of him. That doesn’t mean Democratic attacks on Ryan over the next few months won’t shift public opinion, but it does mean the Obama campaign frittered away the critical pre-convention window of time.

Democrats have had difficulty defining Ryan negatively because he doesn’t fit easily into the cookie-cutter media narratives about Republicans. He’s too smart to be painted as a dumb cowboy, too genial to be pinned as an angry social con, and too poor to be branded as an out-of-touch rich guy. In a different election, Ryan might have been accused of being a cutout for the neocons, but that would threaten Obama’s (ludicrous) efforts to portray himself as a pro-Israel national security hawk this time around.

Clearly running out of ideas, the Obama campaign’s latest attack on Ryan is that he’s “old-fashioned.” Alas, the youthful and athletic Ryan defies that depiction as well.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.