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Five Most Surprising Things About the GOP Convention (Besides Clint Eastwood) Five Most Surprising Things About the GOP Convention (Besides Clint Ea...

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Conventions 2012 / Convention Analysis

Five Most Surprising Things About the GOP Convention (Besides Clint Eastwood)

Among them: The absence of Afghanistan and the power of speakers you never heard of.

Retired firefighter Ted Oparowski and his wife, Pat, described how Romney made repeated visits to their dying teenage son David, brought him gifts and, at the boy’s request, gave his eulogy.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

photo of Jill Lawrence
August 31, 2012

1. The most effective speakers were three people you never heard of, who attested to Romney’s unblinking compassion and support when their children were desperately ill. Retired firefighter Ted Oparowski and his wife, Pat, described how Romney made repeated visits to their dying teenage son David, brought him gifts and, at the boy’s request, gave his eulogy. The most arresting image was of Romney showing up at the hospital with yellow pad in hand, using his legal skills to help David write his will. The boy had asked for help in making sure his prized possessions – skateboard, model rockets, fishing rod, rifle – went to his friends and family. Then there was Pam Finlayson, who described how Romney, seeing beyond a “tangle of plastic and tubes,” gently stroked her tiny premature daughter and helped in concrete ways as well, with food and baby-sitting. It will be a shock – and political malpractice – if snippets of these speeches don’t show up in TV ads.

2. Romney has amnesia if he thinks Washington and the nation came together after Barack Obama was elected and wanted him to succeed. True, there was a momentary honeymoon as Americans across the board rightfully congratulated themselves for having elected a black president, whether they had voted for him or not. But Romney’s party quickly decided to block and criticize Obama at every turn. How else to explain near-unanimous, no-compromise GOP opposition to much of what the president has proposed to jolt the economy and revamp the health care system, including ideas Republicans have promoted in the past, and the party’s take-no-prisoners crusade against government spending after its own massive spending spree under President George W. Bush?

3. There’s a large details gap so far between what Romney says he wants to achieve and his means of getting there. His acceptance speech was effective from the standpoint of trying to instill trust in the electorate. But the trust-me argument will only go so far with skeptical voters trying to figure out what he would actually do in office. If his top priority is dramatically cutting back federal spending, as Paul Ryan's budget would do, what would Romney spend money on and where would he get that money? Is there any area in which he would invest more? Schools? Infrastructure? Job training? Research? If trade is a pillar of his jobs policy, how does that work if sinking economies in China and other countries mean people there aren’t buying as much? Maybe upcoming interviews and debates will shed light.

 

4. The same details gap exists when it comes to foreign policy. Romney devoted 193 words of a 4,087-word speech to the subject. That’s less than 5 percent. Within those few paragraphs, Romney promised more backbone in international dealings. He said he’d be nicer to Israel, meaner to Iran, more stern with China. How, whether or when he’d phase down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, we don’t know. He didn’t mention Iraq, either, not particularly surprising since that would have drawn attention to a policy Americans favor and a promise -- to end the war -- that Obama kept. The surprise is that a Republican nominee seems to be largely ceding national security to a Democratic president.

5. Romney’s signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts, making sure nearly everyone in the state has health insurance, went unmentioned – not just by Romney but throughout the convention. Massachusetts is No. 1 in the country for insurance coverage – a bragging point that in different times, or in a different party, would have been cited every day in every speech lest anyone forget. From a political standpoint, understandably, it’s the last thing Romney or anyone else wanted to talk about, given its fame as a model for “Obamacare,” conservatives’ least favorite part of Obama’s tenure. Yet it’s still mind-boggling that this part of Romney’s record – proof positive that he can solve a problem, even a very complicated one – had to be buried.

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