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.
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.
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.