Welcome to Nightcap, where National Journal’s correspondents take you inside today’s convention—and what’s happening after hours.
Ryan Long on Style, Shorter on Facts
GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan scored big points for style – handsome and charming, forceful and earnest, the Wisconsin congressman condemned President Obama with a smile and a stiletto.
“After four years of getting a runaround,” he said on Wednesday night, “America needs a turnaround and Mitt Romney is the man for the job.”
But the self-professed budget hawk who earned a reputation on Capitol Hill as champion of hard truths failed on substance. He was wrong on at least two important facts, and undoubtedly knows better:
- He criticized Obama for cutting $700 billion from Medicare to pay for health care reforms. Ryan’s own budget embodies the same cuts. Although Romney has specifically renounced Ryan’s cuts, the congressman’s failure to disclose his proposal borders on hypocrisy.
- Ryan criticized Obama for ignoring the recommendation of his debt-reduction commission. Ryan was on that commission, and voted against the plan.
Facts matter. Ryan ignored them, and thus loses moral authority on his signature issue.
The 2012 Campaign Itself 'Can Do Better'
Mike Huckabee was obviously referring to President Obama when he declared "we can do better" about a dozen times in a rousing speech at the Republican convention.
But Wednesday night's theme also echoed the feelings of many Republican voters during the primary earlier this year, faced with a field of has-beens (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum), lightweights (Herman Cain), flameouts (Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann), and ideological misfits (Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman). And then there was Donald Trump.
Huckabee himself took American politics down several notches when he teased his decision to quit after performing with Ted Nugent on his own talk show. Mitt Romney was the last man standing. Candidates that would have drove the faithful wild, like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie--all convention speakers this week--took a pass.
One Florida delegate on the floor spoke for many in the room when he confessed he was only mildly excited about the ticket until Paul Ryan came along. Now Romney and Ryan need to make good on their promises to stick to the issues and elevate the debate. The 2012 campaign "can do better."
Rice, Without Attacking, Distinguished Herself
Condoleezza Rice electrified the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday night, with a speech that ranged from foreign policy assertions to effective treatment of public education to resonant autobiographical touches. It was a well-received address that vaulted her to the head of the GOP rhetorical class.
And never once did she mention President Obama.
The unevenness of this convention’s speeches, including those offered by some of the party’s biggest names, laid in deep relief the quality of Rice’s words. But even without that contrast, Rice’s remarks would have been notable for both content and style. And she gave them while standing atop a stacked résumé.
Hanging over the doings in Tampa this week has been the question of who comes next if Romney loses. None of the potential 2016ers had spoken effectively enough to assert forcefully their rightful place in that conversation. Rice did.
In Fiery Speech, Martinez Delighted Republican Delegates
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez lit a fire beneath the GOP before Paul Ryan hit the stage and launched a national career as one of the young faces of the party.
Martinez, the first Hispanic female governor in American history, energized the delegates with jokes about packing heat as a child, defeating a district attorney who fired her, and pounding President Obama's spending and increases in the federal debt.
Martinez also won hearts with a story in which Republicans tried to woo her (she was a life-long Democrat). Martinez was sure she would rebuff what she feared was a cynical ploy. But then she offered up this career revelation: "I'll be darned, we're Republicans," she told her husband.
Martinez spoke of bipartisan solutions with a Democratic legislature, not exactly the red meat typically offered. She also knocked Obama for failing to live up to a promise of introducing comprehensive immigration reform. Calls for sweeping immigration reform in Tampa have been as rare as, well, Hispanic female governors.
Martinez was not this convention's Barack Obama circa 2004. But she set the table for Ryan, who spoke immediately after. And she made a seat for herself at the national party table, too.
WHERE’S THE PARTY?
Kid Rock and the Conservatives
Kid Rock headlines a concert at Liberty Plaza, hosted by the American Action Network and Citizens Helping Heroes. The music starts at 10 p.m. Want to be a cowboy, baby? You'll need an invitation to get in.
BuzzFeed’s Party Animals
Mermaids! Penguins! Buzzfeed’s invitation-only “Party Animals” bash at the Florida Aquarium will feature scantily-clad mermaids, penguins, and an animal slideshow. Party starts at 11 p.m. Invitation only. 701 Channelside Drive.
MORE EVENTS TONIGHT:
- '80s and '90s Concert and Party, 9 p.m. at the Ritz Ybor, 1503 E. Seventh Ave. Invitation only.
- Maverick PAC’s Convention Celebration, 10 p.m. at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, 400 N. Ashley Drive. RSVP: email@example.com
- Veterans Benefit Party, 10 p.m. at Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W. Gasparilla Plaza. Invitation only.
- A Taste of Southern Hospitality After Party, 11 p.m.-2:30 a.m. at Raymond James Stadium, 4116 Himes Ave.
Where's The Party? was compiled by National Journal's Coral Davenport and Lara Seligman. To provide information on events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.