Thoughts on the Republican National Convention


Last week, I went to Tampa for the Republican National Convention in Tampa. This was sort of an odd experience for me, being a libertarian and all. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve been to conventions and conferences before. The oddest experience was BlogCon in Denver last November, when the local Occupiers showed up to protest us. But the RNC was a much, much larger scale event.

Tropical Storm Isaac: While I understand why Republicans saw fit to scale back events for Monday, the storm really didn’t do much to the Tampa area. It rained some, but it wasn’t near what everyone was expecting. Truth is Republicans could have gotten away with more than gaveling the convention to order. By the time the storm actually hit, everyone was more concerned with what could happen to New Orleans and the rest of Gulf Coast than Tampa.

Grassroots v. the Establishment: Over at FreedomWorks, Dean Clancy has put together a great synopsis of the fight over the new rules implemented, which won’t start until the 2016 process. We went over some of this earlier last week, but at this point many grassroots activists are disenfranchised. Many Ron Paul supporters who attended the RNC as delegates may now be looking for an alternative come November because of the rules changes.

Rule 12 would allow the Republican National Committee to change the rules if 3/4 approve. As Clancy explains, “The new Rule 16 requires that a delegate who attempts to violate his binding pledge to a candidate under state law or state party rules shall be deemed to have resigned and the Secretary of the Convention must record the improper vote as it should have been cast based on state law or party rule.”

He also notes that with the new Rule 12, the RNC could come in and change the rules later at any time. Remember, Rule 16 was a so-called “compromise.” Another rule was proposed that would allow a nominee to have unprecedented power over the delegate selection process, which would have undermined states. Clancy and many other activists worry that this rule could come back to life later down the road.

Police v. Protesters: Seriously, this was overkill. The estimate I heard during the week was that there were four LEOs to every one protester. On Wednesday evening, I walked out of the Hyatt where we were watching Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech, there must have been 30 police officers at the intersection, including a dozen on horses.

Most of them were very nice, but you could tell they were bored. There were protests, but not nearly as many or as rowdy as anticipated. On several occasions we walked by and saw a group of them sitting around in their Ghostbusters-style uniforms. The protesters I encountered outside the Tampa Times Forum, where the RNC took place, were easy to chat with; though I didn’t get near the area where the marches were taking place.

Media Center: This place was awesome. About 95% of the time I spent in Tampa, I hung out the Tampa Convention Center, where most of the media was camped out. We did several walk-thrus on “radio row,” where we talked with some radio personalities and reporters. The Google lounge was nothing short of amazing. Free coffee, a photo booth, and massage chairs. Yeah, that was heaven.

Clint Eastwood: I know many Republicans are trying to defend Eastwood’s speech, but let’s be honest, it was odd. The concept — talking to an empty chair as though Obama was sitting in it — was interesting, but I don’t think many people got it. Eastwood, who apparently discarded prepared remarks, came off like he was rambling. It was sort of funny to listen to Republicans applaud his anti-war comments. His line about unemployment being a “national disgrace” was one of the best lines of the night and the shots at Vice President Joe Biden were hilarious.

Watching Eastwood’s speech a second time makes it better, but overall, Eastwood over-shadowed what was supposed to be Romney’s night. That’s not good.

Marco Rubio: There is no denying that Sen. Rubio is a rising star inside the Republican Party. His speech was excellent, perhaps the best I heard outside of the one delivered by Rep. Ryan. Rubio gave talked about this parents leaving Cuba, discussed Mitt Romney’s success in business, and slammed President Barack Obama’s economic policies, which have done little to get the economy moving again.

Rubio noted that the “hope and change” President Obama promised has become “divide and conquer.” Rubio also explained that the election is “not simply a choice between a Democrat and a Republican. It’s a choice about what kind of country we want America to be.”

It was a nearly flawless speech, one that would have been difficult for anyone to follow. Rubio may not have been picked as Romney’s running mate, but if Republicans fail to win this year, his name will no doubt come to the forefront in 2016.

Mitt Romney: Romney had a tough act to follow in Sen. Marco Rubio. Romney’s speech was pretty good, though not as good as those delivered by Ryan or Rubio. He hit familar points, touching on the economic failures under President Obama. He also added a personal touch, noting how his father gave his mother a rose every morning for years. Romney explained, “That is how she found that the day my father died. She went looking for him because, that morning, there was no rose.”

Romney noted that Obama has disappointed Americans “[not] because he wanted to,” but “because he hasn’t lead America in the right direction.” He added that Obama’s lack of businesses experience, explaining that “[j]obs to [Obama] are about government.”

Romney noted that the cost of living is rising, job growth is stagnant, and the economic toll is becoming too much for Americans to bear. But Romney was weak on details, talking in almost exclusively in platitudes. While the speech was good, the ending was very strong.

Whatever bounce Romney has received in polls to this point has been marginal, and with the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, it probably won’t stick around for long.

Romney still has a large task in front of him, but he came off presidential this week and his running mate is an able campaigner. It’s going to be a fun next 60+ days, folks.

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