Delegates Ready for their Close-up but is Romney?
Republicans had hoped to be blown away this week by Mitt Romney’s speech, not Hurricane Isaac. The storm forced a one day delay in the Republican Party’s national convention in Tampa, Florida and got people thinking about the weather instead of presidential politics.
Even so, the Republican delegates here are trying not to be blown off course. They’re known for orderly political conventions run by a tight party establishment, and Mitt Romney fits the mold of recent Republican presidential nominees like George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992, Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
But when you think about it, who would have imagined that a formerly moderate Senate candidate and governor from Massachusetts named Mitt Romney would one day wind up as the leader of a Tea Party-infused Republican Party that skews well to the right on social issues and often takes a stand of “no compromise?”
The Mood in Tampa
Delegates in Tampa were upbeat and anxious for the main convention events to get underway after the delay caused by Isaac. Republicans had been gearing up for this week for the past year or so, barely able to contain their excitement over the prospect of denying President Barack Obama a second term. It seems they are better able to contain their excitement when it comes to personal enthusiasm about their standard-bearer, Mitt Romney.
Romney has two objectives this week in Tampa. One is to reignite the Republican base, including the Tea Party types and social conservatives, some of whom feel a little left out with all the campaign focus on the economy. The other one, which is a little tricky given the first, is to find a way in his acceptance speech to reach out to moderate swing voters who have not yet made up their minds, and to present more of his real personality to the nation.
Romney has cast himself as economic “Mr. Fix It,” but has had trouble connecting with voters in a personal way, and that includes many Republicans. In addition, the barrage of Obama campaign attacks on him as a rich, cold, out of touch CEO type have also contributed to a dip in his favorability ratings, something the Democrats are quick to point out at every turn.
Radio Row is Conservative Heaven
They line up every day for a chance to talk to the conservative faithful. It’s known in the convention work area for journalists as “Radio Row,” a few dozen booths set up for national and local conservative talk radio hosts from around the country who offer a kind of carnival barker sideshow event that draws in Republican politicians and party activists in droves.
One moment you’re chatting with former Romney rival Herman Cain. The next minute Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann walks by, and the chase begins for a 90 second interview as you speed walk with her to her next interview appointment. It can be fun and a bit chaotic.
Talk radio is like catnip to conservatives, especially those with future political aspirations. It’s an important way to build a national following among conservative groups like the Tea Party or even among the social conservative activists who are always looking for the next generation to pick up the ball and run with it.
More on some rising Republican stars in my next post…