The good, the bad and the ugly of the Republican Convention

After three days of speeches and political fanfare, the Republican National Convention has officially drawn to a close. The event was marked by a number of high points, but also an embarrassing incident or two.


The 2012 National Convention has officially come to a close, drawing a curtain on three days of speeches and fanfare. In some ways, it was a fairly conventional convention, lifted by moments of triumph and filled with political promises. In other ways, as demonstrated by an embarrassing incident or two, it was not.

"This convention was less scripted than past Republican and Democratic conventions", Michael Barone, a political analyst and resident fellow at conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told FRANCE 24. "It was definitely more spontaneous, and I think the Romney people wanted that, because they wanted to show him in a more human light."

The appearance of spontaneity may be a desirable quality for the Romney campaign, but some of the more heavily handled speakers turned out the best performances.

The good

Ann Romney quickly emerged as one of the favourites at the Republican National Convention. Thus far in the campaign, she has been saddled with the task of "humanising" her husband, who has often been criticised for appearing aloof or downright inaccessible to voters. Speaking before crowds of supporters at the convention on Tuesday night, Ann Romney was able to do just that.

Ann Romney was all smiles as she took the stage, where she was greeted by a lengthy round of applause and chants of "We love you Ann". Right off the bat, she made it clear that her presence there that night was not to address politics or party, but to discuss "our hearts" and "love". Romney then appealed to a number of groups her husband has struggled to reach, in particular women, as she promised, "this man will not fail."

While some more familiar with Florida Senator Marco Rubio were disappointed due to high expectations, many were impressed by his speech on Thursday night. The young politician proved himself not only to be a major asset to Romney's campaign, but also a force to be reckoned with. Rubio came off as completely at ease on the national stage, earnest yet sincere as he touched on his life story and experiences as a Cuban-American, as well as his hopes and desires for the country in the years to come.

Romney's acceptance speech, however, was the convention's most highly anticipated appearance. Speaking at the convention's closing, Romney attempted to shape his campaign message, focusing on themes such as the economy, employment and his credentials as a businessman. He also went after Obama's record, saying that many Americans were left disappointed after he failed to make good on his 2008 promises of hope and change.

"You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him", Romney said.

The bad and ugly

Despite some strong performances, the convention did not go altogether without a hitch. One of the uglier moments of the event came after two event attendees pelted an African-American CNN cameraperson with nuts, reportedly yelling "this is how we feed animals" at her. The pair were immediately removed from the venue by security.

According to CNN, convention organisers swiftly apologised for the incident: "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behaviour. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."

Although not at all of the same scale, Clint Eastwood's performance was also largely seen as an embarrassment. In an impromptu monologue, Eastwood attempted to rally supporters by speaking to an empty barstool, where an imaginary Obama was meant to be seated.

Based on Eastwood's cues, the imaginary Obama told him to "shut-up" on a number of occasions. At one point, the actor even turned to face the empty chair and said, "What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself."

While Eastwood's performance was greeted with hearty applause and appropriately timed laughter, the bizarre fact that he was holding a two-sided conversation with himself escaped no one. As Ann Romney diplomatically put it during an interview with CBS "This Morning", Eastwood's speech at the convention was "unique", to say the least.

Two sides of the same convention

For some, the convention was a cementing moment.

"This was the first convention that I've been at", Art Wood, chairman of the Florida's Hillsborough Country Republican Party, told FRANCE 24. "I think they really delivered on what the Republican party had to do, which was introduce Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney."

"The one thing that everybody said [afterwards] was 'I get it, I understand how we're going to accomplish it, it's coherent and we can do it. We can win this'", Wood added.

The Obama campaign, however, disagreed, saying Romney had failed to clearly outline a plan for the next four years.

"Much like the entire Republican convention, Mitt Romney's speech tonight offered many personal attacks and gauzy platitudes, but no tangible ideas to move the country forward", Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said.

Some of the convention's speakers, in particular vice presidential nominee Ryan, also came under fire in the press for misrepresenting the truth, a point that both Obama's campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) has attempted to highlight with a series of publications and videos pointing out both Ryan and Romney's factual inconsistencies .

The bigger picture

Now that it is over, it remains to be seen whether the 40th Republican National Convention will have a serious impact on voters. Despite taking up a lot of airtime, it appears that fewer and fewer people are actually watching the convention. Twenty-five million viewers tuned into the third night of the event, a number substantially lower than that of the last Republican convention in 2008. According to reports, more people tuned in to the US reality television series, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo", than followed the convention on Wednesday night.

The fact that more viewers chose to tune in to a reality television series about beauty pageants rather than watch a crucial moment in the Republican party's bid to take back the White House might seem to speak volumes, but Barone argues that the numbers may be less telling than one thinks.

"People can now watch the convention on other media", said Barone, explaining that because of the Internet, it is difficult to gauge just how many people the event reached.

Regardless, Romney, who has struggled to come across as "likeable", saw his ratings close in on those of Obama, inching up to 48 percent during the convention, according to a recent Gallup poll. With only two months to go until the vote, any boost, no matter how small, can't hurt.

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