Live Blog: Republican National Convention, 8/29/12
Welcome to the second night of our Republican National Convention live blog!
I’ll be critiquing the night’s biggest speeches in real time tonight from 8pm – 11pm eastern.
Tonight’s big speakers include Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. I’ll also live blog tomorrow’s speeches, and will do the same next week for the Democratic National Convention.
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section below – I’ll use a few of them for the main thread.
Finally, there’s no need to refresh your browser; new updates will automatically appear. Here we go!
After writing my review of Paul Ryan’s speech last night, I looked at what some other pundits had to say. Most of them thought Ryan did a terrific job, which stands in contrast to my more negative review. Because it’s difficult to take in the entirety of a speech while live blogging, I decided to re-watch the full speech this morning. Here’s my take with a few hours of distance.
I understand why many people liked his speech. It was well-written and contained some highly memorable lines. One particularly effective line, for example, was about unemployed 20-somethings who are still sleeping in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at their fading Obama poster. Another was about Mitt Romney’s bad taste in music, contrasted with Ryan’s love of everything from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin.
His best moments came when he was discussing policy – not surprising, given that he’s a self-described policy wonk. But moments that called for more flourish – such as when he asked, “Why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?” – felt forced. Ryan seems to be more focused on perfect elocution and hitting every word than delivering each of them while sounding completely connected to its content. When speaking about his late father, for example, it came across more that he was speaking from the script rather than from the heart.
I’d rather hear him deliver those lines in his natural manner instead of trying to deliver them as someone he’s not. Until then, he’ll continue to lack the quality of the greatest political orators – think Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton – who were able to transcend the appearance of speech making by seemingly speaking, in the moment, with every individual watching. His rousing close, in which he repeatedly said “we can do this,” was a step in the right direction.
Overall, my review yesterday may have been a bit too harsh. But I stand by my central assertion that Ryan still has progress to make as a speaker – and that he shouldn’t be satisfied that he’s reached his oratorical end goal.
After watching a lot of coverage after tonight’s Ryan speech, it seems clear that most of the television pundits – including the liberals on MSNBC – thought he knocked his speech out of the park. I maintain that in terms of speech delivery, he looked a bit stilted, overly-prescribed and disconnected. But that view, even if correct, will be swept away by the media narrative that calls it a success. And since perception is reality, it looks like Ryan will be judged as a big winner.
Some quick thoughts on tonight’s Republican National Convention:
Condoleezza Rice gave the speech of the night. She stole the show with a smart, substantive, and emotionally connected speech.
Paul Ryan delivered his speech well enough, but something felt off. As I wrote a few weeks ago when he spoke during his announcement as Vice President:
“Ryan sounded like he was reading his speech. He focused too much on elocution, and his gestures felt far too prescribed. As a result, he didn’t make enough of a genuine connection with his audience. The skill, even for scripted speeches, is to at least sound spontaneous and in the moment. Ryan didn’t.”
That’s not to say that he did badly. Ryan made a deeply-felt case for conservative governance, and it will surely appeal to most Republicans and many Independents. But I’m unconvinced that he did anything tonight that fundamentally changes the state of the race. Remember: this was the same speech that Sarah Palin knocked out of the park in 2008.
Feel free to leave your thoughts below. And please join me again tomorrow night at 9pm (or earlier) for the final live blog of the week. Thanks for tuning in!
Reader Matt writes:
“Ryan speech wasn’t bad. Overall I though he did the job he needed to do. I don’t think anyone could have matched what Palin did 4 years ago. Condi Rice stole the show though. She seemed liked the real leader and a real person of Presidential timber.”
In terms of stagecraft, I’m not sure the plain background behind Paul Ryan adds much. They underplayed it, but likely could have had more powerful imagery.
Paul Ryan compares the Obama Administration to the “central planners.” Expect that allusion to communism to get a lot of play tomorrow. It wasn’t unintentional.
Republicans have bashed VP Joe Biden for two nights. And they have some cause, such as his chronic foot in mouth disease. But Biden also has a way of personally connecting with audiences that Ryan simply lacks.
This is a passable speech, but hardly a game changer. If Republicans were counting on Ryan’s speech to change the playing field, this isn’t enough
Paul Ryan’s throat clearing isn’t quite as noticeable as Al Gore’s sighs during the first 2000 debate, but it’s close. Expect a few YouTube video mashups of his “ahems.”
“He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners?” – Paul Ryan, taking a swipe at the President’s comments that his biggest failure in office so far was to “tell a story” and “communicate more.”
Paul Ryan is seriously blaming President Obama for the credit rating being downgraded? Now that’s a stretch too far.
“We want this debate. We will win this debate.” Expect that Paul Ryan sound bite to be replayed a few times as well.
From Twitter, @asauertirg:
“notice Ryan’s weird throat clearing tic?”
Yes. He should back away from the microphone during the applause to clear his throat, if he must.
And a heckler tried to interrupt the proceedings. Paul Ryan handles it well by pausing, not looking flustered, and waiting until the scene ends before continuing.
Remember that this was the speech that Sarah Palin rocked four years ago. (Remember the difference between hockey moms and pit bulls?) So far, he isn’t approaching anything close to her rhetorical success.
Like Chris Christie, Paul Ryan is coming across as angry at points. He should be emphatic, yes, but without the anger. His image is as the amiable warrior, and it serves him well.
Paul Ryan looks a bit nervous. He isn’t fully in the moment yet, isn’t responding to the audience, and doesn’t look loose. It’s understandable. But he should be conveying a bit more personal warmth when discussing his personal biography. Let’s see if he conveys more warmth when he gets warmed up.
Expect to see this Paul Ryan sound bite on television tomorrow: “I have never seen opponents so silent about their record…they ran out of ideas. Their moment came and went.”
Unlike Chris Christie, who took 17 minutes, Paul Ryan names Mitt Romney within the first minute of being on stage.
“One thing is clear so far. It is the women of this convention that have been the Stars.”
For a party that’s been bashed as anti-woman (with some cause, such as Rush Limbaugh and Todd Akin), this couldn’t have come at a better time. The GOP has an impressive bench of female superstars.
Susana Martinez is doing a fine job, but it’s an anticlimactic speech after Condoleezza Rice’s. She didn’t hit the lottery in terms of speech order. This was supposed to be a potentially breakout speech for her. It isn’t happening.
And Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico gets her first standing ovation by saying she had a gun. The only thing that would earn her bigger applause is if she whipped it out and rocked some skeet shooting.
From reader Heidi Anderson:
“As a PR professional for public schools, I disagree with what Ms. Rice says specifically re how to fix our schools. But the way she says it is so gosh darn convincing.”
And from David:
“Not sure that i get thye whole notion that she and more speakers has made, that America is less liked abroad because of Obama. He is the best PR-stunt for America in Europe since Coca Cola.”
Reader Matt writes:
“We have never been jealous of each other, and never been envious of each others successes.” WOW! I think we have out first home run speech of this Convention.”
Agree. Condi’s stock rose tonight.
I can’t overstate this enough: During a convention with a lot of juvenile political putdowns, Condoleezza Rice looks like a substantive leader. If Mitt Romney loses, I wouldn’t be surprised if she instantly polls top three for the 2016 Republican nomination.
Until tonight, I’ve been skeptical that a single African American woman who’s never been married could win the GOP nomination. I’m still skeptical. But I would no longer rule it completely out.
Reader David writes:
“Condi sounds like she’s giving a foreign policy lecture to grad students. Not sure all of the crowd gets it. But credit for trying to elevate the rhetorical level above “Obama is an idiot”.”
Indeed. It’s refreshing to hear an actual debate with actual policy differences instead of distorted “you didn’t build that” nonsense.
This is a presidential-level speech from Condoleezza Rice. She is doubtlessly adding to her own reputation. But is she doing much for Mitt Romney so far?
From Twitter: @SamaraSomos writes:
“We’re pretty sure that Huck invoking Bono’s name made RNC history of some kind.”
Well, it was a better musical choice than Starship, Danny Gokey, Lee Greenwood and 3 Doors Down, who we’ve heard from so far.
Condi is succeeding in her speech because she looks completely connected to the words she’s delivering. Her words, voice, and body language are perfectly congruent, making her come across as authentic.
So far, Condoleezza Rice is speaking more like a “statesman” than anyone else who’s hit the stage.
Mike Huckabee delivered a terrific speech tonight. His heartfelt delivery connected powerfully with the audience, and was rewarded with the biggest applause of the night.
Huckabee throws his full credibility as an Evangelical behind Mitt Romney: “I care a lot less about where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do where he takes this country.”
This may end up being one of the most important speeches during this entire convention, since it may get thousands of voters who are uncomfortable with Romney’s Mormonism off the sidelines.
Mike Huckabee, an Evangelical, says the only Evangelical on a national ticket is Barack Obama. He then explains why President Obama is the wrong Evangelical, suggesting people vote for Mitt Romney (Mormon) and Paul Ryan (Catholic). A very powerful appeal to America’s Evangelicals.
Mike Huckabee used one line of attack that I’m surprised more speakers haven’t used: That President Obama himself said that Americans would kick him out of office if he couldn’t turn the economy around. There are no distortions there. Obama really said it, and it’s an effective political attack to use a candidate’s words against him.
President Obama wants more food stamps for Americans, says Mike Huckabee. If not overtly racist, that Newt Gingrich-like comment is at least intended to remind voters of Obama’s race.
Last night’s convention seemed to be much more tightly messaged. Tonight’s theme seems a bit mushier, veering from international policy to Puerto Rico to economic policy.
Mike Huckabee has put some weight back on. Sad, considering he wrote a book about the virtues of weight loss a few years ago. Seriously (and without any sarcasm, truly), long-term behavior change is hard.
All in all, Tim Pawlenty delivered a speech that will delight the Republican base. Not sure it did anything for the Independents, though.
Reader Matt says:
“Pawlenty reminds me of that great Thatcher line “It was treachery with a smile” His speech isn’t treachery but he is certainly delivering some big punch with a joyful smile.”
I wonder what would have happened if Tim Pawlenty showed more of this side of his personality during the debates? If I remember correctly, he was the first to use the term “O’RomneyCare,” but then ran away from the term when confronted while standing next to Mitt Romney.
Pawlenty just made a sharp turn from mocking the President to speaking about his mother’s death when he was 16. A bit too abrupt of a transition – just got a bout of whiplash.
Reader Scotty writes:
“Tim Pawlenty needs to stop being a comedian. He’s like the stereotypical dad trying to be “cool” with the teenagers.”
“You’re out of time, and we’re out of money.” – Tim Pawlenty, delivering a media-friendly sound bite.
Tim Pawlenty really going after the President. It’s an interesting choice to have an amiable figure serve as Mitt Romney’s attack dog. A smart choice, since Pawlenty will never come across as a Pat Buchanan type.
Joe Biden has become a punchline at tonight’s Convention. Tim Pawlenty knocks Biden as being one of President Obama’s “mistakes.” That’ll play well with Republicans, but do Independents really dislike him?
Tim Pawlenty hits the stage. And the delegates realize they won’t be needing Ambien tonight after all.
A band called ‘The Katinas” is performing now. According to Wikipedia, they are a “Contemporary Christian music group. The family of five brothers hails from American Samoa.”
The last speaker was from Puerto Rico. This band is from American Samoa. Any bets on the next act being from Guam?
Reader Matt responds to my query:
“Fortuno is key part of Republican outreach to Hispanics. Florida has a large Puerto Rican population and this is speaking directly to them. Also Puerto Rico will be having a number of votes on Statehood soon and this is Republicans playing the long game and trying to make sure Puerto Rico becomes a swing state if it enters the union.”
Great point. Although I’m unconvinced that a sufficient number of states would ratify Puerto Rico’s statehood.
Still to come tonight: Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), and VP Candidate Paul Ryan.
Congratulations. If you were playing a drinking game in which you do a shot for every “you didn’t build that” quip, you’d be unable to stand by now.
Gov. Luis Fortuno of Puerto Rico is speaking now. Puerto Rico gets no electoral votes – is this a bid for Hispanic votes, or am I missing something? What other tactical benefit is there for him to be on the big stage?
This small business owner from Ohio is not a big stage speaker. Or a medium stage speaker. Considering he walked out to Starship’s “We Built This City” – rated by Rolling Stone as the worst song of the 80s – we kind of knew this was coming.
Sen. Portman appears to have reached the highest level of his political career. Based on this speech, it’s difficult to see him making it onto a national ticket.
I’ve been struck both nights that the speakers are (almost) all speaking in their “big voices.” But they’re failing to change their vocal delivery at key moments, leading to something I’ve dubbed “the energetic monotone.” More here: http://www.mrmediatraining.com/index.php/2011/10/24/public-speaking-tip-avoid-the-energetic-monotone.
You may remember that Ann Romney used hushed tones during key moments of her speech yesterday – at it was a far more effective speech as a result.
Reader Matt writes:
“And this is why Mitt Romney did not go with Portman.”
If he was on the ticket, you’d have to call it “Stiff and Stiffer.”
Folks, please don’t make Matt all alone. Feel free to comment below!
Sen. Portman seems to be pausing at certain moments, as if he’s expecting applause. Two things: One, he should never wait for applause. Two, in order to deliver an applause line, he should do something different with his cadence to indicate that something different – and important – is coming.
Sen. Portman slams President Obama for never starting a business. Neither did Paul Ryan, his party’s VP nominee. Is that really a criteria for leadership?
And thwarted Romney running mate Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) takes the stage. He begins with a lame joke about being on the short list for VP. Again, humor is hard, folks. Very few speakers can pull off an opening joke – and they should know better than to try it.
I attended my only political convention in 2000 while working at CNN. Actually, I attended the “pre-convention.” Our Executive Producer was too cheap to allow us to stay a few extra days. Fun fact: despite the Republican Convention being in Philadelphia, she booked us hotel rooms in Delaware to save a few bucks. On the other hand, I got to spend some quality time with Robert Novak (and the other Capital Gang pundits), which was a real thrill.
Would it be too much for someone to teach these delegates to clap to the rhythm? And a one, and a two…
From The Washington Post:
“A Secret Service agent assigned to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s security detail left a gun unattended in the bathroom of a plane carrying the candidate to Indiana on Wednesday. After a reporter found the plane in the lavatory, a Secret Service agent quickly retrieved the weapon.”
So much for the Secret Service’s PR rehabilitation project.
American Idol has its first person on the Republican National Convention stage. Nice to see you again, Danny Gokey!
(Wouldn’t it be cool if Simon Cowell judged all of the convention speeches in real time? “With all due respect, Senator, that was rather like two cats trapped in a box without oxygen.”)
This “you didn’t build that” nonsense continues tonight. An entire convention theme centered around a gaffe. Let’s hope President Obama doesn’t have three nights of “he likes to fire people” crap during his convention.
Reader Matt adds:
“Sen. Thune surely does look the part, he is one handsome dude. His speech was boring though. If you put the TV on mute though you can easily say to yourself this guy could be President and that counts for a lot.”
Sad, but true. In almost every election during the television age, the taller candidate with better hair has won. (John Kerry is a big exception to the rule.)
If you’re interested in such things, the house band at the Republican National Convention is G.E. Smith, who was the guitarist for Hall & Oates. I’m not sure if he makes my dreams come true, but I can hope that his private eyes aren’t watching me.
I’m watching the convention on C-SPAN so I can watch it without pundit analysis or commercials. C-SPAN is a national treasure.
John Thune delivered a competent (if unmemorable) speech, and is receiving only polite applause. This will be forgotten by morning, if not by the next commercial.
Many Americans vote for presidents for rather superficial reasons. “Looking the part” has a lot to do with it. And it’s undeniable that John Thune looks the part.
South Dakota Senator John Thune begins his speech with a basketball joke about President Obama always moving to his left. Let’s just say Thune won’t be invited headline at Yuk Yuk’s in Poughkeepsie any time soon. Humor is hard, Senator.
A reader named Matt writes:
“Susana Martinez is the big wildcard tonight in my opinion. She has quite an impressive story and record and if you can hit one out of the park tonight she will move onto the national level quickly and be a contender for the Republican nomination in 2016 or 2020.”
I’m looking forward to hearing her tonight. There’s no better platform for a politician to break out as a national figure.
The two attorneys general are doing a call and response, in which the audience shouts “no!” at all of their questions. But they couldn’t be more joyless – speakers need to elevate that material off the page to make it work – and they’re not.
Georgia’s Attorney General, Sam Olens, wins the prize of the night for most closely resembling Ben Stein. Bueller? Bueller?
And Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be An American” is played for the second straight night. If Mitt Romney wins, may I suggest he replaces “Hail to the Chief” with it?
Paul Ryan has been criticized for wearing ill-fitting suits. Want to be a few bucks that he has a beautifully tailored suit tonight?
Rep. Rodgers of Washington offers another mention of the people on the Gulf Coast affected by Isaac. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s terrific politics.
Both parties have a habit of abandoning their losing nominees. John McCain, Bob Dole. John Kerry, Al Gore, and Michael Dukakis won’t have prominent roles.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I’ll use a few of your comments in the main thread.
The musical breaks during the Republican convention give all Americans an opportunity to see how badly the delegates keep rhythm.
Paul Ryan is scheduled to speak at 10:24pm – which, I suppose, means he’ll be speaking for about 30 minutes. I suspect they’ll want to leave a few minutes before 11:00pm for the networks to analyze the speech.
One other thing that impressed me last night, and again so far tonight: The convention has been well-produced. As a former radio disc jockey, I hate little more than dead air (and so do all producers). This has been competently produced with few technical hiccups.
So far, it’s a much different night tonight. It’s a much more substantive night, in which Republicans are laying out their foreign policy views. May it continue this way – it’s nice to have a debate about issues instead of red meat.
I’m hoping John McCain doesn’t refer to President Obama as “that one,” as he did during a 2008 debate.
John McCain giving a serious, substantive foreign policy speech that stands in marked contrast to yesterday’s “You Built It” theme.