The good news for Republicans: nothing happened at the convention that will deal a big blow to them by November.
The bad news for Republicans: it wasn’t a game-changer, and since Romney’s the guy challenging from behind, it would have been better for him if it had been.
There were some shameful, racist, moments, not the least of which was the peanut-throwing/CNN camera operator incident. But voters will chalk that up to the fact that out of thousands of people in the room, there will always be some bad ones. They lost few votes over that incident, if only because the votes they would have lost, they’ve never had.
There were bizarre moments. OK, let’s be frank: there was THAT bizarre moment. The Clint Eastwood/empty chair thing. Personally, I tried hard to join into the “let’s laugh at him” revelry on social media last night, but I just couldn’t make it, and laughed with him instead. I actually kind of liked it, for two reasons. First, because I thought it was kind of cute, in that “oh look, a doddering lovable old fool – how cute” kind of way. And second, because since Eastwood’s remarks preceded Romney’s keynote, I knew the followup morning-after chatter would be a lot about Eastwood’s chair and less about Romney, and I can’t help but have a better day any time a Republican manages to step on his own story. So, it’s hard to imagine the Republicans’ cost-benefit analysis on Eastwood, and I bet somebody somewhere in the Romney camp is getting a government-inspected Grade-A ass-chewing today about it.
The Eastwood thing will probably reduce Romney’s convention polling bump by a percentage point or two, but I don’t believe it matters – Romney’s convention bump is irrelevant, since the Democrats are going second, next week. So whatever bump we see in the overnight tracking polls in the next couple of days will be erased by next Friday, when we see the Democratic bump counteracting it. By then, we’ll probably be back to having a Presidential election that looked exactly like the election two weeks prior – one in which the President is ahead, and Romney is the challenger coming from behind…as if neither convention had happened, and neither convention mattered at all. Which, frankly, may well be the case, depending on how Democrats do next week.
One of the most notable things I noticed about the Republicans’ convention is the continuing political freudian slippage related to Romney’s chances this year, both from convention speakers and television network analysts. Speaker after speaker came to the podium to make their case – but not particularly highlighting their nominee’s case. Chris Christie was the most blatant, but there were signs of it from Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and even Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan. The second string of Republican leadership is clearly marking their territory for 2016 – a sure-fire indicator that they believe Romney probably won’t win in 2012. They may look back on their convention performances and wish they hadn’t so obviously peed on the fire hydrant, lest Republican activists point some blame their way in the event Romney loses in November.
What would a game-changing Republican convention have looked like? One which cut into the gender gap and encouraged women to come back. Or one which began to reverse the alienation of Latino or African-American voters. On these fronts, the convention was not a success. Their polling bump will be modest, and will probably be populated mostly by establishment Republicans who have lived in the “maybe” column for months, disgusted by a Republican primary process dominated by tea party blathering. But there’s still plenty of time for Obama and the Democrats to persuade them, and there is still plenty of election math to point to an Obama win even without them.
Stay tuned – the Democrats are set to dominate your airwaves all of next week.