Republicans Hope to Humanize the CEO
The heart of the Republican Party’s convention effort is now underway here in Tampa, Florida and for lack of a more graceful way to put it, it’s now all about selling presidential nominee Mitt Romney to the American people.
The Tuesday night speeches were designed as a one-two punch of sugar and spice, starring Ann Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Ann Romney spoke about her husband, her family and her health struggles in very personal terms that clearly seemed to have an emotional impact on a number of the delegates in the hall.
The Romney campaign sees Ann Romney as a kind of secret weapon than can blunt the Obama campaign’s overwhelming advantage with women voters, an edge that has kept the president in a slight lead in the national polls and in some key battleground states like Ohio, Michigan and even Florida.
The question is whether Mrs. Romney will have broad enough appeal beyond the Republican Party and can lure in some of those undecided women voters they need to narrow the gap in the public opinion polls.
Ann Romney made a good start on Tuesday, but the pressure is now on her husband to follow up in his acceptance speech Thursday and tell the country more about who he is personally and what his core is.
It’s important for Mitt Romney because his political career has seen a lot of zigging and zagging, from moderate governor of Massachusetts to leader of a party that has moved steadily to the right in the last several years.
As for Governor Chris Christie, he had his moments of humor (though I expected a little more of that, actually) and he knows how to wield the sword when going after his opponents. But much of the speech was all about Christie, perhaps confirming what his critics like to point out is his (careful, here it comes) “outsized ego.”
Christie didn’t get around to mentioning Mr. Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, until well into his speech and that caught some Republicans by surprise.
I still get the sense here that Republicans are trying whip up enthusiasm for Mr. Romney. Having covered rallies by Tea Party conservatives since 2009, having watched the Republicans make huge gains in the 2010 midterm congressional elections and having covered the Republican primaries and caucus votes this year, there is no doubt this party is excited about the prospect of defeating Barack Obama in November.
I’m less convinced that enough Republicans truly believe that Mitt Romney is the right man to get the job done.
Presidential Casting Call for 2016 (or 2020)
One after another, the Republican Party’s crop of future leaders paraded before the convention Tuesday in what many insiders saw as public auditions as potential presidential contenders either four years from now if Mr. Romney loses, or in 2020 if he’s lucky enough to win two White House terms.
At the top of the list for the moment is the party’s vice presidential candidate this year, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan has long been seen as a future conservative leader in the House of Representatives, though the budget plans he’s authored as House Budget Committee Chairman have drawn fierce attacks from Democrats.
If Ryan does well this week at the convention and during the presidential campaign, and if Mr. Romney comes up short in November, Ryan would be near the top of the list of potential contenders for 2016.
Chris Christie obviously relished his role in delivering the keynote speech Tuesday night and may have won over some of the delegates who might be president-shopping four years from now.
But Christie has a temper and can be volatile at times on TV, something that could put moderate voters off.
Another possibile future leader speaking at the convention this week is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who will introduce Mr. Romney on Thursday. Rubio is seen as a possible breakthrough candidate for the Republicans because his Cuban-American background could attract some Hispanic voters, potentially cutting into a huge advantage for Democrats.
Others with featured speaking roles who could contend in 2012 or beyond include former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a favorite of social conservatives who ran hard against Mitt Romney in some of the party’s presidential primaries, and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who so far has little visibility nationwide.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is being treated like a conquering hero here after beating back the recall attempt in Wisconsin and could find instant support from economic conservatives in the party should he run in 2016.