Tonight’s speech is the “big enchilada” for Mitt Romney. He has the unenviable task of convincing average Americans that he isn’t a constipated Ken Doll. He will also be tasked with finishing the long slog of persuading apprehensive conservatives that he is one of them — rather than an opportunistic flip-flopper who will say basically anything to get elected.
He was helped by Paul Ryan’s rousing speech last night, albeit very little of what the Vice Presidential nominee said was actually true. We need leaders, not liars and it was abundantly clear by the end of the evening Ryan was firmly ensconced in the latter category. America was told that he was a man of substance, but all we got were superficial slogans and an pathological aversion to specifics, particularly on Medicare. That Ryan is posing as a conservative Catholic while so fluidly bearing false witness and turning his back on the poor makes his earnest choirboy act even more remarkable.
Of course, the veracity vacuum was entirely predictable after Romney pollster Neil Newhouse telegraphed the GOP strategy by saying, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
Mission accomplished, I suppose.
Two of the biggest GOP convention stars so far have been Ann Romney and Paul Ryan. But instead of lifting Romney, they have inadvertently highlighted what a dud he truly is. In the pundit patter leading up to Ann’s talk, we kept hearing that she had to “humanize” her husband — meaning that he is viewed as some sort of campaign robot. And it was clear that Ryan was the front man in the arena’s most popular band, while Romney is relegated to opening act status. Only a breakout hit tonight will change this calculus.
So far, we have had a breakout performance by Ryan, who is now the leading voice of conservatives. Chris Christie gave a self-indulgent, ego-drenched speech that barely mentioned Romney. This leaves it to the presidential nominee to convince America that he isn’t a power-hungry, morally amorphous, policy pandering stiff.
Romney is wilting in the shadow of the bigger, more dynamic personalities that surround him. His goal is simple: Loosen up and look presidential, and don’t look so buttoned up and uptight that casual viewers will confuse him with the Secret Service officers by his side.