With the notable exception of Ann Romney, none of the featured speakers in the first full night of the Republican National Convention did anything to dispel the notion that Mitt Romney’s relationship with his party remains, in a word, awkward. And judging by Romney’s own stiff cameo appearance at the Tampa forum, the feeling, at this point, is mutual.
There was former rival Rick Santorum, who once described Romney as “uniquely disqualified” to go up against Barack Obama, capping off his virtually unchanged campaign speech with an endorsement that sounded like something extracted under duress.
Or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the keynote speaker, who was lauded by his adoring fans in the media but whose speech, for the uninitiated at least, seemed excessively contrived and self-centered, with far too many “I”s and way too few “Romneys.”
Or a whole pack of Republican governors who spent so much time detailing their own fantastic achievements in the past few years that one was left to wonder whether they wouldn’t prefer to leave things exactly as they are, Obama and all.
Nonetheless, this spate of half-hearted testimonials on Romney’s behalf was outshined by the stellar performance of Ann Romney, whose speech sparked much more media attention than Hurricane Isaac and may have actually saved the day for her husband and his handlers. Though she seemed hurried at times, Mrs. Romney’s cleverly scripted text and convincingly heartfelt delivery combined to produce a memorable speech that may have indeed hit home among doubtful female voters and possibly closed at least a fraction of the “gender gap” that is plaguing her husband at the polls.
And while the speech may not have fully achieved its aim of endearing Romney to the masses or erasing doubts about his suitability to be president, it certainly convinced many that Mrs. Romney is eminently qualified to serve as First Lady.
Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw described Ann Romney and current First Lady Michelle Obama as the two political parties’ most effective campaigners, so perhaps it’s not too late to suggest adding a fifth debate to the three presidential and one vice presidential faceoff already scheduled. A spousal Romney-Obama showdown would showcase the candidates’ better halves and no doubt prove a blockbuster in terms of viewer ratings.
Finally one must mention the rhetorically polished appearance of former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, who recently “defected” from the Democrats to the Republicans, much to the chagrin of his former colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus. Though such party-hopping is almost routine in Israeli politics, it is considered so rare and noteworthy in the US that Davis, who introduced Obama to the 2008 Democratic Convention, was now invited to repudiate him four years later in front of a jubilant Republican audience.
Davis, it should be noted, was a staunchly pro-Israeli Congressman whose campaign was endorsed by AIPAC and reportedly financed by some of its top donors when he ran in 2002 against incumbent Earl Hilliard, one of Israel’s harshest critics on Capitol Hill at the time. The potential connection between Davis’ AIPAC connections and the fact that he has now jumped ship and is seeking the president’s defeat is probably not lost on some of the conspiracy theorists that surround Obama.
And on the first day of the Convention, at least, no mention was made by any of the main speakers of Israel, Iran, Syria - or any other foreign country, for that matter.
Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev
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