Right at the top of the last hour of the convention broadcast, when the largest audience was expected, Eastwood gave a rambling, peculiar speech in which he pretended to have a conversation with an empty chair. The chair was apparently supposed to represent Obama. The campaign would have been better served by moving an appealing video about Romney’s life into that hour, the only one covered by network television.
The party did successfully showcase an impressive lineup of women and minorities at a time when Romney is trailing Obama with those voting blocs. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez gave rousing speeches, and the campaign started making good on its promise to ramp up its Spanish-language advertising this week, spending nearly $600,000.
But the damage was already done. The Republican platform, written a week earlier, took a hard tack against immigration reform, reflecting Romney’s tough stance on an issue Latino voters care deeply about. Speeches won’t attract them, said Terry Nelson, the political director of Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. “We have some policy issues that are causing us problems.”
Whether Romney receives a post-convention bump remains unclear. That hasn’t been the case in recent conventions, and he has the additional problem of having had to compete with a hurricane for attention. Even a minor bounce could lift Romney into the lead in key swing states and perhaps national polls -- but that could be wiped out if Obama experiences a similar bounce after Charlotte.
Nelson offered another standard for how to judge the success of the Republican convention: “Two weeks from now, are we talking about the things that Mitt Romney wants to talk about or are we talking about the things Obama wants to talk about?"