Friday, August 31, 2012
Well, our region survived. Aside from the jokes about humidity and cockroaches and strip clubs, I think you have to say that Tampa hit a home-run this week. Much credit goes to Mayor Buckhorn and the Tampa Police. In working with protestors and standing firm but acting fair, protesters were able to have their say without becoming criminals. There was no University of California pepper spray moment. In fact, a typical Tampa Bay Bucs game has five times the arrests that were made this week. That's right, there were only 2 RNC-related arrests. One for a guy carrying a machete and one for a persistently uncooperative protester. That's it.
So what have we learned? Well, first of all we have learned that mystery guests are a bad idea. We have learned that there are Republicans who can speak Spanish. We have learned that Mitt Romney cannot seem to command a spotlight. We have learned that the GOP message machine is still tripping all over itself. In a way, it is quite fascinating. I have written on it before and I believe it even more strongly now. The Nike-esque ability to coin a phrase, craft an image and mount a public relations campaign has disappeared from the GOP.
Not that I am the one to fix that problem, but if I were asked, I would say that the pieces are all there. The fundamentals of this election cycle have always been in the GOP's favor. The potential narrative to reject the incumbent is plain to see and seems easy enough to relate. Apparently it is harder than it looks.
Just as in so many other moments Romney should have been able to capitalize upon, last night's acceptance left quite a bit to be desired. And just like the big picture, the fundamentals were there. A touching personal story told by "regular folks", a slick video, a powerful introduction and a well-written speech with just the right balance of content. It was all in place. Then came Rambling Harry. It was as if someone had escaped from one of the many nearby assisted living facilities and wandered onto the biggest stage imaginable. Oops, Uncle Clint forgot to take his meds again! Look, he's talking to a chair!
What? You say that was the over-hyped "mystery guest"? Someone actually planned it Someone made the decision to push the candidate's personal narrative support pieces off prime time to allow a rambling octogenarian to speak to 20 million viewers without a script or vetted remarks? Well, I would say that you can be ready to see an uptick in the unemployment numbers again. Cause if I were in charge, heads would roll. What a slow-motion train wreck.
How appropriate. Yes, a rich old man yelling at a pretend Barack Obama is a great metaphor for the RNC. Yes, a slow-motion train wreck of a convention capper is appropriate and right in line with the slow-motion train wreck of a GOP nomination process. Remember Cain-mentum? Or Michelle Bachmann's brief turn in the spotlight? Or the fact that people seriously considered the pu-pu platter of candidates Gingrich, Pawlenty, Santorum, Paul, et. al.?
The fundamentals were always on Romney's side there as well. He'd been campaigning for 6 years. He had the most money. It was "his turn". It will be interesting to see if the general election fundamentals - high unemployment, low consumer confidence, high gas prices, etc. - will be enough to carry him again. Lost in the Gran Torino meltdown, Romney made the argument - quite well, in fact - in his speech yesterday. It is the "are you better off" question that every incumbent must face. And this is how Romeny famed it:
"In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class. Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled. Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before. Nearly one out of six Americans is living in poverty."
That is a grim picture. If this election is truly going to be a referendum, that isn't the message Team Obama wants people to base their judgment on. "It could have been worse" is not a sales pitch either. But we'll get to that next week. Somehow I doubt that the DNC will be headlined by a senior citizen and a barstool. After all, the ones with message discipline are now the Democrats.
How the heck did that happen?
Back to Blue,
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Friday, August 31, 2012
Happy Friday, and happy end to the Republican National Convention.
I agree: the big winners out of this Convention were Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn -- a Democrat -- the Tampa City Council, Hillsborough County Commissioners, the Tampa Chief of Police, and everyone else involved in the planning of this event. They helped make Tampa -- and the entire Tampa Bay area -- look great on the national stage, especially in the face of the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac.
When did Democrats become the message leaders? I don't know. Hell, I've pretty much been keeping up with this blog over the last six or so years because Democrats have been so terrible at the messaging piece.
And now here we are.
This is "Into the Echo Chamber," and so I echo much of what you say. Whoever thought the Clint Eastwood thing was a good idea ought to be out of a job today. I said a couple of posts ago that I likened this event and even Romney's campaign to someone falling. Falling, stumbling, bumbling from one thing to the next, and so to be fair to Eastwood -- and even those scripting the RNC -- the whole thing it was really just another stumble along the campaign trail.
The hard-to-watch Eastwood moment. The racist peanut throwing event. The shouting down of a Republican functionary from Puerto Rico who had taken the stage. Paul Ryan's strange speech filled with easily-disproved lies.
I even heard the Gingriches tried to do a speech together, trading paragraphs. Only a rambling Clint Eastwood could eclipse that horror show.
Governor Christie's message-stepping speech in which he seemed to forget who was being nominated, not mentioning him -- Mitt... Romney, is it? -- for many minutes.
Sure, the Convention had its high water marks. You and I wondered early on if there would be a "Barack Obama 2006" breakout moment, and I think the consensus has shown that in this was accomplished, in some measure, by Senator Marco Rubio. Maybe not such a surprise to regular Rubio watchers, actually, but worth noting, to be sure. Rubio cemented himself as a player for 2016, no question.
Matt, I had occassion tonight to have a discussion about politics in the frame of the Republicans being in town with folks of differing politcal views. I didn't speak up as much as I should have, and the one time I really wished I had involved the conversation about guns in America.
There were the predictable shrill liberals who had to misquote the Second Amendment out loud and wonder where all the militias are. There was a conservative gentleman there, and he was trying to keep it in the framework of the national conversation.
The question was asked of him: What's really your concern? Obama has done nothing on the gun issue in his time in office. Which is a true statement. There has been little -- actually, there has been no legislation on this issue since Obama took office. Indeed, he's hardly used even the bully pulpit to address this issue, despite the clear need for governmental action and leadership in this country (I won't link back to the recent tragedies we've witnessed; you know them as well as I do).
"Obama hasn't said anything about guns," said a liberal man next to me.
The conservative guy chuckled. "Well, that's what scares me."
You can't have it both ways. You cannot have it both ways. The conservative movement and the NRA have effectively won the argument about guns, gun availability, accessibility and appropriate usage in this country. For all intents and purposes, the argument about guns has been conceded by President Obama, for he has not, as we established, even raised his voice on this issue.
If he had proposed a raft of legislation, then the staunch gun-rights advocates like my new friend from this evening could profess fear. But you can't be afraid of one and the other.
It is simply not fair. It is disingenuous, at best. It is a deliberate reframing, mid-conversation, of the rules of what you're debating (gun rights) and what you are actually afraid of (a black man with power).
And it does not work that way.
At least until it does. At least in the mind of the current Republican voter.
"We built this!" The theme of the Republican Convention, built on a false conceit, a phrase wholly taken out of context and twisted to fit a convenient frame.
A national debt counter? It was the Republican President who wasn't there who fired up two wars -- one predicated on lies -- and cut taxes for the wealthy which lead to that debt. Only in the mind of a Republican voter could you be in the same convention hall with a national debt counter right by the school-marm scold brother of that President, as he whines that the current President should stop picking on his brother, and have it all make some sort of sense.
And then there's the empty chair. I'm sure somehow that makes sense in their world, too.
It's over, now, and the energy for Charlotte is already palpable. I am quite sure there'll be gaffes there as well. (Let's face it: Joe Biden will be there. Kidding, Uncle Joe, kidding.)
I'm looking forward to it, too.
Happy Labor Day weekend to the whole family, Matt.
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Welcome to a special Republican Convention Edition of Into the Echo Chamber, the weekly electronic conversation of the 2012 presidential campaign as viewed from two Twitter feeds. Matt Spence is monitoring the Twitterverse of the Romney Campaign, Republicans, and the "red" side of the aisle at @SpencerianRed. I am monitoring the tweets of the Obama Team, Democrats and the blue team using @SpencerianBlue. Our email-based back-and-forths are normally posted here on Thursdays.
For the week of the Republican Convention, we will be attempting to post one exchange per day. Stay tuned.