Finally this thing is getting under way. I know that this is just a show, but I love political conventions: the theater, the ridiculous partisanship, but mostly the fact that the debate is entering a new phase where what happens in the day-to-day of a campaign might be a little less ephemeral. It might be a ridiculous hope, but for the moment I hold on to it. It may turn to mush by the time I finish typing this right here.
“He hasn’t ever run a company,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the GOP, is saying behind me about the president. “He hasn’t even run a garage sale or the inside of a lemonade stand.” That’s also true of Paul Ryan, but never-mind the message of the night: Barack Obama doesn’t know the first thing about business. That’s their message, and they’re going with it. I think of those kinds of charges as a waste of time in a sense. They fire up the base, every voter will hear them, but what I’m looking for is a thought or insight that might wriggle out of this building into the light of the campaign.
Tonight, the big prime time speakers will be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ann Romney. Romney’s advisers say that his wife will talk about “love.” Romney is likely to show up in some fashion. Fortunately I think we know that we will be spared all the saliva of the big kiss that Al Gore gave Tipper at his convention in 2000. The other moment on my mind is the time in 1996 when Elizabeth Dole was walking through the crowd like Oprah and her husband appeared on the screen behind her. He waved and then no one was quite sure what should come next. “What do I do now?” Elizabeth Dole asked before moving on.
Romney’s staffer says Ann Romney’s speech is amazing—which seems like an unnecessary raising of expectations—but it’s clear she has material that can pull on the heart strings. Ann Romney has had a brutal set of physical challenges and she’ll talk about that tonight. She has MS, is a breast cancer survivor, and has had multiple miscarriages. Ann Romney talked about her miscarriages recently in an interview with Scott Pelley. It was more than she had said before. These conventions tend to focus on the crucible moments to show us a side of candidates we haven’t seen before. Remember in 1992 when Al Gore told the wrenching story of his son nearly being killed in a car accident. In 1996 he talked about his sister’s cancer death. So the nominee’s wife will have to go a long way to match that mix of the personal and the political.
I’m listening for the word “trust” from Ann Romney. The message is: I trust Mitt Romney and you should too.