The Daddy Party’s Senior Moment

I haven’t formed any strong new opinions on the last night of, or the residual impressions from, the 2012 Republican Conventions since I stopped blogging about it at around midnight (the live-blog is here; the wrap-up post here). I didn’t tune in to Mitt Romney’s warmup acts until relatively late, and so missed what many have considered very impressive testimony to the Mittster’s character, particularly from church friends. I wasn’t as fired up about Marco Rubio’s performance as some, in part because I’ve heard him do better when he had a deeper script. I’m sorry I missed Newt ‘n’ Callista’s team effort, which sounds like it could have been from an awards ceremony at a high school pageant. As I’ve said elsewhere, the balloon drop was pretty awesome.

But as for the central event of the evening, I dunno: WaPo’s Chris Cillizza thought it got the job done. A fair number of folks thought the “self-humanizing” parts of the speech were effective. Nobody much bought the claim that his hurried repetition of his “5-part jobs plan”–a standard Romney campaign chesnut which is a jumble of policy preferences and goals all incongruously combined with a K-12 education voucher proposal that no one talks about–constituted any sort of presentation of an agenda. And his attacks on Obama, which were well delivered and received (in the hall at least), were pretty much lines he’s been delivering since the early days of the primary campaign, when they were most definitely not aimed at a general election audience.

I’m with Greg Sargent in feeling the speech was very uneven–indeed, it sounded like it was lashed together by a team of speechwriters, massaged by another team of pollsters, and then rehearsed maybe one time too often in front of still another team of media consultants.

But aside from the speech itself (and probably my favorite thing about it is that it was too slow to unfold and focused on too many divergent tasks to include very many lies), the bigger question is how it capped the convention, and what overall impression was left with viewers. I’ve sent a piece in to the New Republic on that subject which may appear today; my basic take is that the GOP never quite decided what it wanted to do over the course of the three days. Day One presented the Party of Tough Choices; Day Two the mendacious party focused on Saving Mom’s Medicare from the Scary Black Man; and Day Three was a too-conspicuous renovation project on the nominee’s threadbare “character” credentials. The two most consistent things were that (1) hardly anyone presented any positive policy ideas, and (2) the efforts to suppress anything off-message (e.g., references to the social issues many if not most of the delegates care about far more than the economy, or the Revolt of the Paulites) worked only superficially, and at the expense of genuine enthusiasm.

So it’s entirely appropriate that the climactic moment of the convention, and the thing the whole show will probably be most remembered for, was the moment when the cameras came on for last night’s Prime Time Network Broadcast , and there stood Clint Eastwood, soaking up many precious minutes with a meandering, semi-solipsistic rap that devolved into a debate with an imaginary Barack Obama and relied for its punch on implied obscenities.

I really thought the Daddy Party would do better, and after Ryan’s incredibly dishonest but effective speech on Wednesday, I thought they were doing better. We’ll soon know more when the polls and focus group reports come out.

What did you think?

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.