A Rousing Start for the GOP Convention
The Republican National Convention (RNC) began in earnest Tuesday, August 28, one day late but full of ire and grit, fire and Mitt.
Speaker after speaker hammered the first evening’s key theme—“We built it!” painting President Barack Obama as anti-capitalism, anti-small business, and anti-growth—and promising a remedy for the future—“Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!”
Capping the day’s events were the longest and most anticipated speeches of the night, including Ann Romney’s “You can trust Mitt” testimonial. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “respect rather than love” keynote address reviewed the tough choices that need to be made to solve the nation’s problems and Mitt Romney’s ability and will to make those choices.
The first formal day of the convention began with procedural matters that had been postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Then came the nomination of Mitt Romney and the roll-call vote.
The foregone conclusion arrived at 5:40 Eastern Time, when New Jersey’s 50 delegates went to Mitt Romney, giving him 1,150 delegates—nine more than he needed for the nomination.
By the time the Wyoming delegation cast its votes, the former Massachusetts governor had amassed 2,061 delegates to a mere 202 for his rivals. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was nominated as vice president shortly afterward by acclamation.
The Disgruntled Few
During the day, the convention approved new rules for future campaigns that would make it more difficult for insurgents like Texas Representative Ron Paul to gain traction in the race for the nomination. Some delegates grumbled about the way the state-by-state roll-call votes were announced, as the official tally from the podium only announced Mitt Romney’s vote total, and not that of other candidates.
Paul supporters, in particular, felt slighted.
Although a video tribute to Paul is scheduled for Wednesday evening, he himself will not make a formal appearance. Some of Paul’s delegates registered their anger with calls of “Let him speak!” When some of Paul’s Maine delegates were not seated, they complained. “We were disenfranchised by our party. We won’t participate with this chaos,” Russell Montgomery of Maine told Reuters.
They Came Out Swinging
A parade of early evening speakers came out swinging, criticizing Obama for overregulation and slow business growth, for “Obamacare,” and for building a federal debt approaching $16 trillion. Again and again, the Republicans maintained that it is entrepreneurs, not the government, who build the economy and fuel growth.
The lineup of political speakers included business owners who cited their families’ hard work in creating companies and chided the president, “Yes, Mr. President, we did build that!” Made earlier this summer, the president’s “you didn’t build that” statement became the informal theme of the convention, appearing on signs and banners lining the convention walls. The massive wall-mounted “debt clock” with its constantly changing numbers hammered home another campaign theme, the growing national debt.
Showing a New Face
An unspoken theme of the evening was that the Republican Party is more diverse than often portrayed.
The GOP showed its ability to attract minority voters by spotlighting Latinos (lieutenant governor candidate Sher Valenzuela of Delaware, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, and First Lady of Puerto Rico Lucé Vela Fortuño), Asian Americans (Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina), and African Americans (congressional candidate from Utah Mia Love and former Alabama congressman Artur Davis).
Davis, who had been co-chair of the 2008 Obama campaign, pointedly contrasted the hope that he felt four years ago with the dismay that has arisen since Obama took office.
Addressing the television audience, Davis said, “To those Democrats and independents whose minds are open to argument: listen closely to the Democratic Party that will gather in Charlotte and ask yourself if you ever hear your voice in the clamor. Ask yourself if these Democrats still speak for you.”
Santorum’s “Hands” Speech
Senator Rick Santorum made the most of being moved up in the speaker’s schedule to the prime-time slot of the nine o’clock hour. Drawing on some of the rhetoric that made him one of Romney’s most serious rivals, Santorum spoke about the people he met on the campaign trail. “I shook the hand of the American Dream. And it has a strong grip.” He returned to his signature theme of family values, stating, “If America is to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage” and describing his daughter Bella’s health struggles in order to decry abortion.
Woman to Woman
Ann Romney’s talk had two purposes, to humanize her husband and to appeal to women voters. “You are the best of America,” she told the nation’s women. “It’s the moms who really hold this country together.”
Mrs. Romney expounded on women’s fears. “I don’t think there’s a woman in America who really expects life to be easy.” In what some pundits saw as one of the evening’s most memorable statements, Romney asserted, “We’re too smart to know there aren’t easy answers, but we’re not dumb enough to expect there aren’t better answers.”
Women can trust her husband, she said, to make America safe “just as he took me home safe from that dance,” a reference to the high school dance where the two first met.
“No one,” she said, “will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.” Mrs. Romney ended with a solemn pledge: “This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America!”
After his wife concluded her speech, the candidate appeared on the convention dais to embrace and thank his wife.
Christie Caps the Night
After a brief video introducing the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie took the podium. The governor promised to speak frankly and stand on the principles he believed in—just as his no-nonsense Sicilian mother taught him to do.
Christie criticized the Democrats for following misguided policies that pander rather than facing—and fixing—a difficult reality: “Our leaders of today have decided it’s more important to be popular, to say and do what’s easy, and say yes rather than to say no, when no is what is required.”
Since taking office two years ago, Christie’s tough stance and tenaciousness has transformed New Jersey, a state with a Democratic majority. With leadership and bipartisan cooperation, he described how he faced down “the disciples of yesterday’s politics” and dared confront the “third rail of politics,” the unions.
Christie then contrasted Republican and Democratic principles, starkly highlighting the GOP as the party of truth talking, growth promotion, and budget discipline, while the Democrats are “whistling a happy tune while driving us off a fiscal cliff.”
It all comes back to leadership, he said, and Mitt Romney is that leader: “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear, to put us back on a path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.”
Highlights for the next two days include speeches by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Wednesday and Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech on Thursday. The buzz that is resulting already for the convention will, the Republicans hope, propel them through the coming weeks until Election Day.