Welcome to Nightcap, where National Journal’s correspondents take you inside today’s convention—and what’s happening after hours.
A Republican Party Spoiling for a Fight
Ann Romney’s goal in her highly anticipated speech Tuesday may have been to soften her husband’s image, but most of the evening’s proceedings displayed a Republican Party spoiling for a fight.
Romney started her speech by declaring that she wanted to talk “not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family.” But in the hours before she appeared on stage-and the prime time network cameras turned on-a succession of Republican speakers repeatedly jabbed at some of the most polarizing and racially charged issues in American politics, including welfare, illegal immigration and voter identification laws.
Ann Romney was enthusiastic, energetic and engaging in seeking to humanize her husband. But the edgier remarks that preceded her may be a better guide to the Republican messages that will dominate the campaign’s final weeks.
The evening highlighted an array of issues that over the past generation have separated working-class whites from the Democratic Party, with the messages, intriguingly, frequently delivered by minority speakers, including African-American former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis (who, in a show-stopping performance, accused Obama of undermining welfare reform) and Indian-American South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (who insisted Obama “refuses to protect our citizens from the dangers of illegal immigration.”)
These charges, the parallel thrusts against public and private sector unions that punctuated the night and the Romney campaign ads that target Obama on welfare and accuse him (amid repeated images of white seniors) of looting Medicare to fund “a…program that’s not for you,” all position the GOP as defending an economically-squeezed middle-class against a Democratic coalition determined to pick their pockets. Expect to see more of that back-to-the-1980s imagery in the weeks ahead.
Romney's Counter Narrative Must Be Authentic
After months of pounding by President Obama and his allies – an assault that defined Romney as a tax-avoiding, job-exporting, middle-class-loathing fat cat – Mitt Romney finally fought back with a counter narrative.
It started with Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor is blunt, brash and self-consciously authentic, the antithesis to what turns off today’s voters: flip-flopping politicians who speak in poll-tested platitudes. Yes, he’s the anti-Romney.
Romney is square-jawed and handsome. Christie is not (just ask him). Romney measures his words. Christie heaves his. Romney equivocates. Christie eats “hard choices” for lunch. If Mitt Romney is vanilla, Chris Christie is three hefty scoops of Rocky Road topped with whipped cream, Red Bull and gravel.
“Tonight,” he told delegates, “we choose respect over love.”
Romney’s challenge Thursday is to convince voters that the introduction they were given tonight is authentic.
A Big Slogan With a Small Problem
Let there be no doubt: "We built it"—Tuesday's theme at the Republican convention—is to 2012 what "Drill, baby, drill" was to 2008.
It's a short, sweet battle cry, a guaranteed applause producer and mantra that encapsulates what's big and small about this election. Big in that there is an important, legitimate debate about the role of government, which Democrats view as a helping hand and Republicans see as a monkey on their back. Small because like so much of the stuff that makes up the daily grind of this campaign, it is a distortion.
No matter that President Obama never told small businesses that they weren't responsible for their own success. Like with "Drill, baby, drill," facts are beside the point. These are feel-good slogans at a time when Americans feel bad.
For One Delegate, an Election About Destruction
The theme was "We Built It," but for West Virginia Republican Kris Warner this election is not about construction, but destruction.
"I'm here because I lost it," Warner told National Journal. "We lost everything we built over 30 years."
Warner lost a $50 million real estate business in the financial collapse, leaving 22 employees jobless and him broke. Now, Warner runs a hot dog and soft-serve ice cream stand. He doesn't blame Obama for the financial collapse. But his new, financially strapped life feels strangled, he said, by a lackluster recovery and the threat of new regulations on coal mining.
A Santorum delegate, Warner enthusiastically backed Romney after he selected Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate.
"I don't know if I have a whole lot of hope for my life, but for my kids and grandkids we have to change the White House," Warner said. "Ryan gets it. We have got to tighten our belts in Washington. That pick completely galvanized me behind Romney."
The theme was about building. But for some delegates, loss mattered more.
WHERE'S THE PARTY?
HomoCon Is the Hot Ticket
GOProud’s HomoCon 2012 party at The Honeypot in downtown Ybor City, billed as “not your ordinary song and dance,” is shaping up as the hottest stop in town tonight, with a long guest list of GOP VIPs. Expected to attend: Antitax lobbyist and conservative icon Grover Norquist, CNN contributor and Republican strategist Mary Matalin, Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer, and Romney campaign Director of National Coalitions Joshua Baca. Starts at 10:30 p.m. 1507 E. Seventh Ave. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics and Comedy Do Mix
Washington isn't known as town chock full of comedians, but perhaps lawmakers, lobbyists, delegates, and journalists will have better luck in Tampa. Whatever the case, the comedic stylings of the political crowd will be on display tonight at the Funniest Celebrity Charitable Fund event at the Improv Comedy Theatre. Expect stand-up from National Journal’s Matt Cooper; Grover Norquist; and The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein. Starts at 8 p.m. 1600 E. Eighth Ave # C112
MORE EVENTS TONIGHT:
- Concerned Veterans of America Party, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. at Gaspar’s Grotto, 1805 E. Seventh Ave. RSVP online.
- Gavin DeGraw Concert, 10 p.m.-1 a.m. at Dallas Bull, 3322 U.S. 301 North. Invitation only. Media can request credentials online.
- Young Republicans Party, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. at Green Iguana Bar & Grill, 4029 S. Westshore Blvd. RSVP recommended. Contact: email@example.com
Where's The Party? was compiled by National Journal's Nancy Cook and Lara Seligman. To provide information on events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.