- - Sunday, September 2, 2012



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — By just about any measure, the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., was a success. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan got nominated without drowning in a hurricane and without committing any campaign-killing gaffes.

Ann Romney nailed it on the first night. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a thrilling speech annihilating President Obama’s globalistic worldview without ever mentioning his name.

“God bless you, and God bless this extraordinary country, this exceptional country: The United States of America!” she concluded. It was a caustic reminder of the time Mr. Obama agreed that America is exceptional — just like other countries think they are exceptional. In other words, nothing exceptional here. Just another self-centered spot on the map.

Rising stars such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Utah congressional candidate Mia Love blew the crowd away and left Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) asking glumly why it is that the Republican Party has so many more women and minorities in such high offices. Some Democrats bitterly concluded that they were just “tokens.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida took a wire brush to the president more thoroughly — yet gracefully — than any other speaker at the whole convention. He walked confidently to the podium like he owned the stage; and when he walked off, he clearly owned the crowd. It is a very hopeful reminder that whatever happens in November, the party has a deep bench of young, brilliant stars.

That is not to say that there were not some heart-stopping moments.

“Clint Eastwood at the GOP Improv” had many in the audience cringing and squirming in their seats. “It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion,” noted one observer. It was likely made that much stranger for those in the hall because we could only hear about every fifth word he said.

Then there were the ghosts of conventions past and conventions future that were quite haunting.

Sen. John McCain’s speech was so awful, it had everybody shaking their heads as if pondering a really bad decision they made long ago. I mean, what was that all about?

Low, halting and unfunny speeches by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty reminded everyone how lucky they were that Mr. Romney picked Mr. Ryan.

And then there was Mr. Ryan’s speech.

The first half of it was so flat, boring and weakly delivered that Republicans were breaking out in sweaty hives and blurred vision. He didn’t look scared, but he looked and sounded small and boyish. He very aptly described the titanic struggles facing the country, but also appeared entirely unprepared to do anything about them.

But about halfway though, something clicked, he got comfortable, and he proceeded to offer a withering rebuke of Mr. Obama’s policies, the economy he inherited and how he managed to make it even worse.

“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” Mr. Ryan said, setting the pace for the rest of his speech.

And even Mr. Romney, who was never a particularly good political speaker, managed to hit a groove halfway through and crescendoed to a rousing conclusion.

Several of his most memorable lines are sure to leave many Democratic voters feeling rather uneasy today.

“You know there is something wrong with the kind of job he has done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him,” he said.

And then there was the single strongest moment of the entire convention when Mr. Romney took that annoying disappointed-father look he has and turned it into a powerful strength.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” he said, pausing a long time to display that unfortunate look. “And to heal the planet.”

Again, with the annoying disappointed-father look.

“My promise is to help you and your family.”

Boom. If nothing is remembered from the entire convention but that line and the defiant response — “We did built that!” — then Republicans are on pretty good footing going into November.

Charles Hurt can be reached at [email protected]

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