For GOP, Mission Accomplished -- Though More Loom

For GOP, Mission Accomplished -- Though More Loom

By Carl M. Cannon - August 31, 2012

TAMPA -- The Republican Party assembled here this week as a tropical storm with an Old Testament name menaced the Florida coast. But their convention was spared, and by the time the delegates and their 2012 nominees pulled out of this city, the GOP had weathered more than Hurricane Isaac.

Ostensibly, Republicans were on the offense during the coronation of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as they used the tepid performance of the U.S. economy for the past four years as a rationale for reclaiming the White House and gaining ground in Congress and in statehouses.

Video: Tom Bevan and Carl M. Cannon recap the convention.

“The president hasn’t disappointed you because he wanted to,” Romney told the delegates in his Thursday night acceptance speech. “The president has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.”

In a nutshell, that’s the Republican case made this week against Obama: Elected amid great promise four years ago, he’s proven to be a man with insufficient qualifications for the job who adheres to an ideology that professes to venerate employment while not really respecting employers overly much.

But Republicans were also playing defense here in Tampa. And the convention accentuated just how much territory there is for them to defend. The ground ranges from the Democratic Party talking point that Republicans are waging “a war on women” to accusations that the GOP wants to curtail government spending, even at the expense of Medicare.

Other hurdles include perceptions that, despite the presence of a Mormon and a Catholic on their ticket, Republicans are still beholden to the Religious Right; that Republicans care too little for the poor, particularly if they are minorities; that it is a mostly white political party hostile to immigrants; that they cater to Big Business -- while simultaneously pandering to the Tea Party; and that their nominee is so robotic they had to spend much of their convention personalizing him.

So how did they do? A fair reading of this convention is that the Republicans effectively addressed all these issues. Yet it can also be said that these concerns run pretty deep, and were not -- and could not -- be airbrushed away in a three-day convention, even if the speakers performed well and the rhetoric was well-crafted.

The convention began on an uncertain note. Isaac jumbled the schedule, although because the broadcast networks had committed to just three days of prime-time coverage, that might not have been the only concern. But the storm missed Florida, and Romney put the punctuation point on his week by visiting drenched and battered Louisiana when it was over.

With the exception or Romney and Ryan, perhaps the three most compelling speakers this week were female: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Ann Romney. The mere presence of those women -- and a dozen others -- was a concise rebuttal to the white-bread, born-to-privilege stereotype of the GOP. Haley is of Sikh descent, Rice is African-American, and while Mrs. Romney has lived a charmed life in many ways, she reached her fellow Americans when she referred, quietly and without histrionics, to the fact that she has battled both breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage.’ Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once,” Mrs. Romney said in her speech. “And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”

It was one of the most memorable lines of the convention, and the speech not only fulfilled its intention of humanizing the nominee, it also showed the woman who would be first lady in a nice light.

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Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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