By Teresa Welsh |
Mitt Romney didn't get everything he wanted from the Republican National Convention. But he did get most of it.
In a convention shortened by a hurricane that threatened the host city, then veered westward and vied for headlines all week, the Romney forces acquitted themselves well. They managed to bring order to chaos, slot speakers in effective spots, unite the party behind the ticket, improve the candidate's likeability, and even to generate a modest bump in the polls.
Six months ago, who would've thought Romney could unite the entire party—save for a few Ron Paul holdouts—around his ticket? Yet, even Sen. Rand Paul, son of the libertarian candidate, and former Sen. Rick Santorum, the last, most bitter rival to fall in the race for the Republican nomination, endorsed him and offered words of support in Tampa, Fla.
Two weeks ago, who—even among Romney's own staff—would've thought his vice presidential pick would turn out so well? But Democrats' attempts to Mediscare voters away from Rep. Paul Ryan have fallen flat, and any doubts about his selection surely were washed away by his powerful speech and its even more powerful reception on Wednesday night.
Then, on Thursday, when the stakes couldn't have been higher, Romney took full advantage of his last chance to speak directly to voters before the presidential debates.
He brought home the narrative Republicans explored all week—it was OK to like President Obama, to sympathize with the difficulties he faced when taking office, and even to have voted for him four years ago. But it didn't make sense, given his record, to support him again.
That was good strategy. It enabled Romney to craft a speech that seemed less partisan, more statesmanlike, and warmer in many ways than almost any other speaker all week.
With his selection of Ryan and his rhetoric since about facing hard choices, Romney took a chance that Americans understand the seriousness of the situation and stand ready to step up. In the process, he positioned himself as—if not the guy you want to have a beer with—the responsible adult in the room.
Voters seem to have noticed. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday, Romney had jumped ahead, 44-42, in the overall vote. His "likeability" improved from 26 percent to 30 percent during the convention, and the percentage of Americans who say he is a "good person" rose from 29 to 32.
Will the bounce last? Probably not all of it, given Democrats hold their convention next week in Charlotte, N.C. But, for now, Romney and Ryan have been introduced. They have not been immediately rejected. And it's pretty clear they lifted the spirits of their party and assured a close race right through November.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research
Penny Lee Democratic Strategist and President of Venn Strategies, LLC
Brandon Rottinghaus Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston
Zerlina Maxwell Democratic Strategist and Writer
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College