The Breakfast Table

Ann Romney’s speech may be more effective up-close in Tampa than on television.

The closer you get to Ann Romney, the harder it is to tell how effective she is.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Lady and Gentlemen,

Sure, yes, the floor of the convention is not the place to get a cold-eyed view of how a speech is playing to Real America. I just thought that Ann Romney was rhetorically effective for the same reason a soft-focus magazine profile might be effective. Tuna fish, pasta, ironing board—banal details that make you feel like you know this person. She’s Just Like Us!

If it turns out to be a bust, it’ll be because it was one of the thousand or so Romney “memes” that really, really impresses the campaign and the base, and sounds weird to the non-aligned. The whole idea that being a mother is hard—not to circle back on vocab already, but a very banal idea—is a callback to Hilary Rosen’s late-night CNN comment that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.” The Romney campaign pounced on that immediately with thematic bumper stickers (“Moms build America,” I think) and a days-long argument about how liberals disrespect women. It was strange. But so was the outrage over Obama’s “build that” comment, which—in a mutilated form—was the theme of the night.

This was all just the pre-game, you realize. Right? I’d expect Paul Ryan’s remarks tonight to make a few feints toward Medicare boldness (i.e., reform that promises never to cut anything for current, Republican-voting seniors) but a lot more about his hardscrabble upbringing and his fishing/hunting hobbies. It probably won’t be as defensive as Palin in 2008—remember how some mysterious force emanating from Chicago was disrespecting “small towns”?—but it’ll carry on the subtle, smart strategy of presuming that liberals don’t understand families or real work.


Read the rest of Slate’s coverage from the GOP convention.