August 27, 9 a.m.
Coming in from the Tampa airport, a giant billboard greets everyone as they pull out onto I-275: don’t believe the liberal media. And the chatter in the bars and on the evening shows and Cokie Roberts’ morning public-radio commentary and other liberal outlets typically includes a chortle about God’s intervention here with Hurricane Isaac. Always noted: this happened four years ago, too. But the Republicans’ genius lies in their breathtaking ability to craft a message out of whatever oddments reality blasts their way. Even though they’ve easily sloughed off this bit of liberal static, the entire point of a convention is to create a unified message and present it to the late, half-tuned-in voters (a.k.a. “independents”) who typically begin to pay attention in late summer. This is the ramp-up to two months of message control, in which the parties delve deeper and deeper into greater and greater numbers of voters who know less and less. It’s this arc that really begins here, and today, it would seem, the Republicans are having trouble finding their footing.
Ron Paul, who simply won’t abandon his contempt for Romney (“I hated you at hello, Mitt”), refused to endorse the presumptive nominee or allow Romney’s team to vet his speech, and so was denied a speaking slot. Paul also managed to continue raising an issue neither Romney nor Obama cares to talk about: Afghanistan. This week, two more Americans were murdered by their own trainees, and reports about the beheadings of seventeen civilians at a party have been continuous. It’s strange that this major political issue, one of the most important of the campaign, has been marginalized to RonPaulLand—though this is, at least, a little better than the issue of gun control, which has seen Republicans and Democrats tacitly agree that discussion of anything gun-related would be extreme despite the many mass shootings of the past few months.
Although Paul is running around off-leash, Romney did manage to keep the BadTV wing of his party—Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry—off the main convention stage. The only person who got a speaking slot from that crew was the Donald, who, still nursing wounds from getting zinged by Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, had apparently planned to include some risible video of an Obama impersonator doing some funny. The apotheosis of the far right’s most un-self-aware clown would thus have been complete, but alas, his appearance was washed away by Isaac. Kudos to Romney, who has managed by planning and luck to have only telegenic speakers during prime time every night.
Romney has pulled one other smart, but possibly dangerous move here. He has decided to own his health-care reform in Massachusetts. In an attempt to stanch the bleeding of the women’s vote after the Akin fiasco, he began last night to market himself as the inventor of a much better version of Obamacare: “I’m the guy who was able to get all the health care for all the women and men for my state,” Romney bragged on Fox News. It’ll be interesting to see if the Republican Mutaween swoops in and forces Romney to walk the statement back.
As I headed out this morning, the sun shone briefly but brilliantly in Tampa. The delays and cancellations in anticipation of God’s wrath and Hurricane Isaac had proved unnecessary. In Hebrew, Isaac means “he laughs.”