The Official Line

As a veteran message worker is six Democratic National Conventions, I was interested in the Official Surrogate Talking Points being circulated in Tampa, as published by the Weekly Standard‘s Daniel Halper (who’s now apparently looking for something other than Biden Is Being Dumped speculation to write about).

I understand that these Talking Points are a secondary method of enforcing message discipline. The actual speeches of actual speakers will be ruthlessly dictated, edited and rehearsed by and under the supervision of Mitt’s operatives; not a spontaneous word will be uttered, unless somebody really screws up. No, the Talking Points are aimed more at anyone loosely connected to the convention or the party who might find himself or herself in front of a microphone or keyboard in the course of the convention. And their basic, subliminal instruction is “Don’t Make News Or Even Waves.” You will note that this is the sum total of the positive presentation of the Romney/Ryan agenda for the country:

In contrast to President Obama, we will advance specific polices that Governor Romney and Paul Ryan will implement to grow our economy, help businesses create more jobs and let American families keep more of what they earn.

There’s a lot more about the biographical re-presentation of the nominee:

Governor Romney is uniquely qualified to be president at this critical time in our nation’s history.

o Family, the organizing principle of his life — devoted and loving husband and father

o Business career — Bain and the businesses he saved and jobs he created – adefender of free enterprise

o Public service – Governor of Massachusetts, rescuer of the Olympics

o Faith – integral to his life

And even more about the whizbang technology of the convention:

Unprecedented ways to deliver our message and connect with tens of millions of Americans watching each night on television and countless others participating online:

o The podium/Stage, with its 13 LED screens, will provide maximum flexibility to enhance the program with live-stream videos, social network feeds, and panoramic and collage images. The screens allow the stage to be transformed into a factory floor or a Midwest farm.

o Convention Without Walls will utilize multiple social media platforms in ways no convention has ever before attempted in order to create community, engage with Americans and amplify the themes and messages from the convention.

§ Americans across the country and around the globe (working mothers in the Midwest and soldiers stationed overseas alike) will be able to share in the convention experience – unfiltered, uninterrupted and free of charge.

I’m excited by the prospect of the convention stage being turned into a Midwest farm, aren’t you? And it’s very cool the whole show will be offered “free of charge.”

The one thing that surprises me about these Talking Points is a section on convention expectations that predicts “upward movement in the polls.” I mean, yeah, that’s usually the case, but (a) the exceptional stability of public opinion in this campaign, reflecting an unusually low undecided vote, and (b) the absence of the usual weeklong gap between Republican and Democratic conventions–both make a significant post-convention “bounce” a dubious proposition, even if Americans are wowed by the Romney Story and all the fine stagecraft.

The bigger problem with such Talking Points is that they’ll probably be ignored by a lot of delegates and other self-appointed spox for the party who will want to growl and rant about the Godless Socialist in the White House and his evil plans to disrupt the well-ordered lives of virtuous retirees and loot their savings in order to empower welfare queens and their spawn, the ever-threatening Roving Bands of Youths.

When the convention is over, I may draft some Actual Talking Points that reflect the message that the entire show conveyed. I suspect they won’t focus on the Convention Without Walls or Mitt Romney, Man of Faith.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.