Usually when a deadline is missed at a national political convention, it is at a Democratic convention. But Mitt Romney's at Tampa was filled with snafus, mischedulings and moments that denied the nominee the full advantage of primetime. Clint Eastwood's rambling efforts burned up precious time.
But beyond that, the theme was disjointed and not in step with either the platform or Romney's preferred way of campaigning. Romney's acceptance speech was a cobbled together effort that set a record in using bromides and shop worn rhetoric. Its tone was looking backward, evoking a fairy tale America of nostalgia. It was an appeal for a Bush restoration dressed up in bright, bold Tea Party colors. Hitched to a radical platform, it was Ozzie and Harriet juxtaposed with the "Wild Bunch."
Not only did the convention offer up pablum, other speakers, as did Gov. Chris Christie, shamefully self-promoted. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan simply made up things. From nonexistent marathons to Obama's alleged stripping of Medicare, it appears Ryan simply could not tell the truth. The bump was modest, and according to Reuters, was beginning to recede almost as fast as it appeared.
For the Republican Party, the crazy-guilt stances, combined with constant tactical adjustments, made for a convention that lacked a central theme. Certainly, Romney was placed in the best possible light. There was little doubt going on in Tampa that he was a nice family man. But, whether he would be a president who would pander to some ominous groups, was not clear. It is not inconsistent that Romney could be a good man and still embrace dangerous and absurd positions. His vision is America on the march abroad and stand pat at home.
It's truly amazing that strategist of both parties would place such an emphasis on "likeability." This is not a high school race where the most popular usually wins, but a contest to determine who sets the agenda for the world's most important republic. Anyone can be affable, but that certainly is not a window into their thought processes nor does it offer a clue of what their touchstones are for making decisions.
What is clear is that Romney's America is one that is to be ostensibly "restored." Obama, to most of the Republican delegates, is an alien force which is to be quickly dispatched to Chicago. It is a world of Joe Arpaio, the tough-talking sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz. This is the old bunch seeking to roll back the United States to times before the New Deal. Tampa was the GOP with the mask off - no more Mr. Nice Guy. The sugary rhetoric could not conceal the flinty vision of America.
Hence the weakness of the bump. Romney's hasty decision to announce Ryan's appointment soaked up much of the rise. It also forced the governor to take much of the excitement out of the convention early. So in order to take up some valuable time, they had a disjointed group of speakers and Romney's handlers felt compelled to tout "the secret speaker," Eastwood, who apparently went on prepared to ad-lib. All in all, between Ryan and the convention itself, Romney gained a net three points. Not nearly as impressive as Sarah Palin's 11 point contribution in 2008.
For Barack Obama, his job in Charlotte was made easier. The nearly nonexistent bump will disappear in hours after the convention starts. Obama, unlike Romney, could actually make news, but he also could spell out where he wants to take the country in the next term. The noise machine in Tampa could be answered by Democrats giving a coherent theme and a president with an interesting vision.