Did the Republican Convention Meet Its Goals? (UPDATED)
Did the Republican convention meet its goals? The internet, cable, and radio airwaves are now filled with tons of takes on this issue, many of them coming from pre-conceived partisan or ideological preference points (I get emails from news sources and people and can now tell exactly what people on both sides will say before I open them up). Time’s Mark Halperin has two items that help put what has occurred and its possible impact into context a bit better.
One is this exchange he excerpts from his Morning Joe exchange with Obama campaign bigwig David Axelrod when he asks the admittedly (duh) partisan Alexlrod to tell him what he thinks the convention achieved and did not achieve. Alexrod:
I thought that film they did was very nice. I’m sure they regret that more people didn’t see it. You know, beyond that, I think that a lot of what was happening there was aimed at the base of the party and a lot of that had nothing to do with Mitt Romney. it felt like open mic night for 2016 candidates and not a convention that’s aimed at promoting Mitt Romney in 2012. But, you know, we’ll see.
Obviously, what happens in the next few weeks will reflect part of what people saw here and maybe they received it differently than I perceived they did but I think they did a lot of work whipping each other up, hitting the Tea Party base, hitting the social conservative base, presenting their future talent. I don’t think they did much to advance the cause of Mitt Romney.
This has been the key question: how has this played for independent voters? I don’t think many independent voters are too impressed with all the jokes about Obama spending all of his time playing golf. How many Presidents including the late Dwight Eisenhower played golf and how much time did George W. Bush spend on his ranch? The reality — which most voters know — is that Presidents can take vacations, and play golf or whatever and still do their jobs.
Those seemed more like the kind of verbal tripe served up by predictable ideological talk show hosts rather than even the kind of assertice partisan comments you heard at Democratic and Republican conventions in the 60s or 70s. It’s all part of the parcel of the dumbing down of our political discourse. To be sure, there were some exceptions, but that and they “build it” slogan got tiresome and didn’t make a strong case that appeals to advance the cause of offering specific thoughtful reasons why and how Mitt Romney needs to be the CEO of the United States of America.
But time — and future polls taken two weeks AFTER the upcoming Democratic convention — will tell.
And overall? Halperin then gives these reasons why the GOPers achieved their goals:
*Reduce the likelihood that voters will detest Mitt Romney by Election Day.
*Keep the focus on the incumbent’s record on the economy, to the exclusion of everything else.
*Message to the millions of voters who cast their lot with Obama in 2008 but are open to being for Romney this time.
By those yardsticks, much of this week’s program was very well executed, with some high-profile exceptions. Maybe Eastwood, et al, Isaac, and Obama campaign bracketing will offset Boston’s gains to some extent. But, without a doubt, the Romney campaign got a lot of business done in Tampa.
Yesterday, we wrote that Mitt Romney had four objectives with his acceptance speech: 1) better introduce himself to the public, 2) close the empathy gap, 3) get American voters to be comfortable with him as president, and 4) put more meat on the policy bone. He accomplished those first two goals, especially if you were in the convention hall or watching the live feed in the 8:00 pm hour. The testimonials from families who had lost loved ones during the time Romney played a key role in his church were powerful, and there were tears in the audience after these families told their stories. It was something we hadn’t seen from Romney or his campaign before. But how many people saw that? You didn’t if you only tuned in for the primetime hour beginning at 10:00 pm, which began with Clint Eastwood’s very unusual introduction (more on that below). On the empathy question, Romney also delivered this line that was very effective: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise is to help you and your family.”
*** And what he didn’t: So the campaign largely succeeded on those first two objectives. But on the last two? Not as much. On getting American voters more comfortable with him as president, Romney made a stronger case — and devoted more time — to why Obama should be fired than why Romney should be hired. Indeed, the speech was heavy on trying to channel disappointment with the current president. One example: “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.” Yet Romney didn’t make the case how he could get past the current division, polarization and gridlock, especially given how these campaigns are currently conducting themselves. And as for more meat on the policy bone, we didn’t get it. Romney discussed his five-step plan on the economy — take advantage of domestic energy sources, give Americans the job skills they need, encourage free trade, cut the deficit, and lower taxes. But outside the budget deficit, none of those steps is any different than what George W. Bush pursued when he was president. And this was surprising, but Romney never mentioned the word “Afghanistan” once. By not putting more meat on the policy bone and by not differentiating his policies from Bush’s, Romney left the Obama campaign a lot of room to work with.
*** Go ahead — make our day: And finally, we come to the story that’s likely to be the subject of late-night comedians — and that’s still the talk of Tampa: Clint Eastwood. After all of the scripting, Eastwood delivered a 10 minute-plus rambling speech, part of which was an imaginary interview with President Obama. Romney World has to ask itself: Why Eastwood over the touching Romney video in the primetime hour? Why Eastwood over those touching stories about Romney? The word we’ve received about Eastwood from the Romney camp is this: The Obama campaign is dedicated to tearing down Romney, and an American icon like Eastwood is on Romney’s side.
*** Yet another unforced error: Unfortunately for the Romney campaign, Eastwood was yet another unforced error. Of course, all campaigns make them — Obama made one when he allowed Republicans to seize on his “You didn’t build that” line. But Romney and his campaign stumble on the EASIEST of situations. Remember the speech at Ford Field in Detroit? Romney questioning London’s readiness before the Olympics? All were unforced errors, and all were VERY avoidable.