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2012 Republican National Convention Recap: Clint Eastwood to Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ann Romney, Chris Christie


Once upon a time, party conventions actually mattered. The party delegates chose the candidates, often with plenty of intrigue and horse-trading in the notorious “smoke-filled rooms” of yesteryear.

Since primary and caucus campaigns now determine the party’s candidate, the convention has largely become a dog and pony show that are usually only followed by stalwart political  junkies.

Though the last convention to have real meaning for its party last occurred in 1972, the media still covers such events with much gusto.

This week, the Republicans went first in Tampa Bay, Florida. Because you were probably too busy planning out your Labor Day weekend plans or getting the kids ready to go back to school, you probably didn’t pay much attention to the Republican Convention.

With that in mind, here follows a concise summary of the major things that happened at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

1. Rock You Like a Hurricane

It was not such a good idea for former Republican National Committee Chairmen Michael Steele to hold the GOP Convention in Tampa in the middle of hurricane season.  Hurricane Isaac threatened to come to town just as the big show was ready to start.

The hurricane decided to make its way to New Orleans instead, much to the chagrin of a disappointed Samuel L. Jackson, and the convention was only delayed a day, becoming a three day event instead of a four day one.

2.  Dirty Harry Steals the Show, and dominates Twitter Chatter

It doesn't matter what stripe your politics are, or whether you thought Thursday night was a victory or disaster, Clint Eastwood stole the night. It was electrifying — a glorious, bizarre, fun, wild, weird, kooky, incendiary moment that threatened to throw the entire convention into a complete tailspin — and just before the nominee spoke.

The Twitter world exploded Thursday night after Clint Eastwood’s 12-minute ad lib where he unleashed a string of garbled, politically-incorrect criticisms on an invisible President Barack Obama sitting in an empty chair on stage.

The Twitter handle "@InvisibleObama" popped up within minutes of Eastwood's address, had more than 20,000 followers within an hour and has had more than 45,000 followers in the past 24 hours.

Expect the Democrats next week to use an “Invisible Romney” as a part of one their speeches.clint eastwood invisible obama 2012 rnc


3. Marco Rubio Has Game.

In the GOP, Rubio is the only figure possessing the kind of goosebump-inducing stage presence that Barack Obama had 2008.

Political campaigns are about stories, emotions and biography -- and Rubio's speech had it all.

There were doses of sharp-edged rhetoric to fire up the GOP crowd -- "Our problem is not that he's a bad person, our problem is that he's a bad president," went one of his best lines -- but the speech was mostly optimistic and forward-looking.

When he spoke about his personal life as the son of immigrants who "never made it big" but worked hard nonetheless, the audience was rapt. Inside the convention hall, people were crying.

One Republican operative in the audience texted CNN to say that the speech threatened to "overshadow" Romney and said that the campaign should have given the keynote address on Tuesday night to Rubio instead of Chris Christie to avoid that very problem.

Watch out for Rubio in 2016 if Romney loses this contest in 2012.

4. Paul Ryan is Electric and Deceptive

Though the VP nominee fired up the base on Wednesday night, his speech set off alarm bells at fact-checking operations nationwide, from NPR to Fox News.

The news media was unusually aggressive in pointing out the, um, "factual shortcuts" in Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's convention speech on Wednesday. But that's because while his speech was "well-written, well-delivered, and well-received," it was also brazenly and "profoundly dishonest in ways large and small," says James Fallows at The Atlantic.

Here is a list of the top five fibs uttered by Ryan Wednesday night.

Perhaps Ryan’s oversight is due to the fact that the Romney campaign is clearly counting on" the idea that "most casual voters don't read editorials and fact-checker columns," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. That's a pretty safe assumption.

5. Chris Christie Thinks He’s Running for President

Gov. Chris Christie’s address at the Republican National Convention was so self-absorbed, it sounded like he was accepting the nomination.

His speech was not uplifting, informative or conciliatory. We learned not one new piece of information about the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. We learned nothing of the Republican platform, or the Republican policies going forward. All we heard was “I, I, I, me, me, me.”

Governor Christie, people have been asking you for two years if you were considering throwing your hat into the Presidential ring. Based on your Tuesday night’s speech you should have.

6. Ann Romney Tries to Humanize Her Husband and Appeal to Female Voters

While some offer dissent, there is general agreement across the political spectrum that Ann Romney stole the show on opening night.

Brit Hume at Fox News said she gave the most effective speech he had ever heard from a political wife -- and remembering star turns from Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Barbara and Laura Bush, that is saying a lot. John Cassidy of the New Yorker wrote, "The night belonged to Ann Romney, and she aced it."

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell also gave Mrs. Romney high marks. “Inside the hall, it was absolutely powerful,” Mitchell said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today. “Women — some women [had] tears streaming down their faces.”

As in her convention speech, Mrs. Romney has worked throughout the campaign to bridge the gap between her husband and female voters, who historically favor Democratic candidates and prefer Obama to Romney.

If Mitt Romney gets a convention bounce in the polls, he should thank his wife.

7. Mitt Romney’s Acceptance Speech Was Good, but not Great.

Mitt Romney's speech closing out the Republican National Convention on Thursday night was the most important of his political life.

For starters, he needed to energize the Republicans watching in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, fire up those watching on TV at home, narrow the yawning gender and likability gaps with President Obama, and convince voters who like Obama, but not his record, that it's alright to vote for a Republican this time.

To do that, Romney opened up a bit about his family and his experience as a Mormon, pledged to create 12 million jobs, and threw several tough jabs at Obama.

Among his best lines: "Hope and change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."

Some pundits felt his speech lacked specifics on how to get the economy moving; others; others claimed he failed to connect with the American people.

There are the 7 things you need to know about the Republican Convention. Come back next week and read about the Democratic Convention.

Photo of Clint Eastwood and Invisible Obama from Getty Images

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com

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