Some of these you may have picked up from my Twitter feed, which is where I’m likely to be camped for every day of this affair, but just in case you missed it:
• I’m not totally certain, but I believe the theme for the night was “We Built It,” which is half a quote from a President speaking extemporaneously. This is like a whole convention night devoted to criticizing FDR for saying “we have to fear” something. And the likelihood that the small businesspeople the RNC assembled to tout their small business acumen and self-reliance actually got federal contracts or some other government assistance was somewhere in the neighborhood of 98%. The guy from New Mexico angry at the President for not going him enough federal sign contracts was just over the top in this regard.
• The New York Times noted that House Republicans weren’t ready for prime-time. They put some House Republicans on in the afternoon. I watched them. They weren’t. It was like an open mike night.
• This first night had an additional theme of self-aggrandizement combined with Obama-bashing. That became difficult when someone like Ohio Governor John Kasich would try the “Ohio is coming back but none of it had anything to do with the auto industry bailed out by the Obama Administration, which accounts for 1 out of every 8 jobs in the state” triple backflip with a twist.
• Rick Santorum has a thing about hands. I think his next run for the White House should feature that as his stump speech and the tag line “Rick Santorum: Handsy. For You.”
• Scott Walker got an enormous ovation twice yesterday, during the roll call of states and during his speech. The common thread binding together the Republican Party is really “whatever liberals choose to hate.” And hating unions, lots of that from the stage.
• The two big speeches of the night came from Ann Romney and Chris Christie. Pretty much everyone noticed that they were perfectly contradictory! Romney gave a speech that stated from the outset “I want to talk about love.” It was a speech about the power and importance of love. Christie went out and said it’s not important to be loved, what matters is to be respected. On message 2012.
• I thought Ann Romney’s speech worked. Clearly she was out there to take the edge off of a rigid Republican Party, and particularly its stance toward women, which has taken a beating over the last week or so. But the reason that Romney did well is that she never mentioned a single policy item on the Republican agenda. This makes it much easier to give a broadly palatable speech. The only policy in there was a scholarship fund for students in Massachusetts established during the Romney governorship, i.e. public money for education.
• As for Christie, you can read the speech here. But to get the full effect, put a near-permanent scowl on your face when you do, and for the last half, start yelling belligerently. I don’t buy the argument that Christie spoke too much about himself – was Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote memorable because of all the mentions of John Kerry? Christie was trying to contrast a differing set of ideologies. The problem was that he looked fairly angry doing it, and that the ideological contrast was on the order of “we don’t give up” and assorted other cliches. “We don’t love teacher’s unions, we love teachers” is a perfect example, as if teacher’s unions are made up of some alien creatures other than teachers. It was the first time in a while I’ve seen an applause line at a Republican convention about “principled compromise,” I’ll admit. Overall I think it was just shaky.
That’s it for now, I’m sure there’s other things I forgot, like the Ron Paul revolt, but I’ll save for later.