Focus on Jobs, Housing, and Debt
The clear message of all the speakers and in all likelihood will be tonight for Romney, has been the economy. There has been virtually no focus on foreign affairs, only passing notice of national security, and very limited attention to the fundamentalist concerns of much of the Republican base. The only non-economic issue discussed—and it too has been framed as a critical financial question—was healthcare.
Rest assured that next week in Charlotte the Democrats will move the focus back to the social agenda and the polarizing direction that they believe the Republicans want to take the country. They will not be able to run away from the economic issues, but will use chapter and verse to paint the Romney-Ryan ticket and the Republican Party as totally confused about its program and agenda. Presumably they fill the airwaves with the conflicting messages which have been preached over the years by Romney and Ryan.
Then after next Thursday night the real campaign will start.
Condoleezza Rice’s presentation last night made one nostalgic for the days of Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon. As she spoke about a role for the U.S. in international affairs, it was clear how out of touch she is, or the Republican Party is, with each other. For the Tea Parters, the Ron Pauls, and even Paul Ryan, except the commitment to protect out fighters abroad, the only world issues which seem important to them are economic ones. Rice discussed a world which is largely foreign to this new party and to which the GOP may not return, as a friend of mine observed for at least the next 16 years, should the Romney-Ryan team win in November.
As she fought back the isolationist movement in her party and tried to project a renewed engagement for the U.S., even she was moved to enter many of the domestic economic issues which have clearly become the focus of the Tampa gathering. It remains to be seen whether she indeed now will stay in the ivory tower or will opt to try to re-engage the old party. Last night she certainly did much to elevate her own star for the future, if she does indeed consider seriously getting into the political mud.
Ryan—Only for Veep
Paul Ryan gave the party and the audience what they wanted and what they expected. Like all the other speakers he criticized the incumbent but left virtually nothing of substance on the table for discussion. His visuals and style were exciting and his youth and self-confidence galvanized his audience. He will help Romney among his base, but how he will do among undecided and independent once he addresses his own record may well be a different story. The Republican Party has only one problem to address with him at this time. In 2012, Paul Ryan is only running for vice-president.
Romney’s Big Opportunity
The entire campaign for Mitt Romney could be won tonight if he can get out of his shell and speak to the country without the veneer with which he has encapsulated himself for all these months. He has a live audience waiting for him, with no competing voices and no alternative messages. The question will be whether he can deliver. It may even be whether he has it within him to do it.
American wants to feel it can touch its president, can have coffee with its president, and that he understands them personally; that he emotes. If Romney succeeds, the Obama campaign may well have the numbers in key states on their side, but it will be a much tougher race to November 6.