The 2012 RNC could have been a complete disaster. On Sunday it looked as if Isaac would make a personal appearance forcing at best an abbreviated convention that would greatly inhibit the Romney/Ryan rollout. But Isaac veered west out into Gulf leaving Tampa relatively unscathed. The people of the Gulf coast who were driven from their homes from flooding caused by the torrential rains need our prayers and our physical support. Thankfully, New Orleans was spared a direct hit and the improved levee system combined with the lessons learned from hurricane Katrina kept the loss of life to a minimum.
Security at the RNC resembled a full-blown military state. The combination of Secret Service, Marines, mounted Capitol Police, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement made for an impressive sight. The bay of Tampa Bay was filled with Navy and Coast Guard gunboats. Overhead, military helicopters were a constant presence. Convention goers and members of the press walked around inside a five-block bubble with checkpoints approximately every two hundred yards. I told one of my colleagues on Radio Row that I might drop dead of a heart attack but there was a zero percent chance that I would be taken out by a terrorist. Everyone involved in providing security was courteous and helpful.
Protestors ranged from sparse to non-existent. Tropical storm Isaac kept the planned busing of protestors from becoming a reality so what could have been five thousand anarchists from all over the country turned out to be a few hundred locals waving their typical “Republicans are Nazis” signs.
Day one of the convention wisely was cancelled. Wind gusts and driving rain would have greeted anyone trying to make their way to the Convention Center. I had to walk about five blocks in a driving rain in order do my show but other than that, everything went as planned. The rescheduling of the first day’s speakers actually proved to be an advantage to the RNC since the major networks decided they weren’t going to broadcast the first day anyway. The abbreviated schedule meant the speakers that were moved from Monday to Tuesday actually received some media coverage.
There has been plenty of speech by speech analysis so rather than add to the running commentary on each speaker I want to simply give my impression of the convention as a whole. It was my first to attend in person so I confess I have no model to serve as a template. Having said that I must say I thought the RNC did a brilliant job of rolling out the Romney/Ryan ticket. Some of the people I talked to were disappointed there weren’t more attacks directed squarely at Obama. But those people need to realize that with President Obama, we have a President who is personally popular even though his policies have been patently disastrous. Speakers at the RNC needed to sound more disappointed than angry with President Obama’s performance. They needed to sound optimistic reminding people that America is great country that deserves better than the leadership of the last four years. Because many of the attacks against Republicans are centered on painting them as racists, bigots, homophobes, and women haters the speakers needed to present a diverse, inclusive and positive tone to counter those attacks. In this, the RNC succeeded beyond my expectations.
In my view, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the best speech of the week. It was delivered from the heart without a teleprompter. It was informative, inspirational, reflective, and powerful. Ann Romney did exactly what she needed to do. She introduced us to her husband as man who loves his family and is deeply involved in the life of his community. The caricature of Romney as a heartless rich guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth and no understanding of the problems of everyday people was erased.
Also erased was the picture of Mitt Romney as a man responsible for causing a woman to die of cancer. The personal testimonies of people Romney has personally cared for were powerful and persuasive. Americans who tuned in will never again allow the Obama attack machine to paint a false picture of Mitt Romney.
For me, the best line of the convention was delivered by Marco Rubio who said, “My father stood behind a bar at the back of the room so that I could stand behind a podium at the front of the room.” That line sums up the American dream. It is what every parent wants for their children…. a better life filled with more opportunity than they had.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan need to stay on offense. They need to continue to pound away at President Obama’s record without attacking him personally. Americans know they are hurting and they know the hope and change they were promised have turned to desperation and despair. Americans want to believe in America again. In his acceptance speech Mitt Romney said, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise…is to help you and your family.” He also said, “When the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American.”
Most Americans want to believe that again. They want America to be a country that celebrates success and sets the right example for the rest of the world. Republicans sent that message in Tampa. I pray that it will be heard and heeded by all Americans on November 6.