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Politics: A powerful opening night for the GOP convention.

Published by: Robert Laurie on Wednesday August 29th, 2012

Robert Laurie

By ROBERT LAURIE – Highlights of the first full night of GOP speeches.

1. Mia Love

If you’re not following Mia Love’s Twitter feed, you need to.  Now.  The daughter of Haitian immigrants, she’s smart, quick witted, talented, and a rising Republican rock star.  If she manages to dethrone Utah’s six-term incumbent Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson, she’ll be the first female African-American to claim a congressional seat for the GOP.  She’s also exactly the kind of Conservative the Republican base is clamoring for.

Her fiery Tuesday night speech may not have enjoyed the pre-game hype enjoyed by Chris Christie, but you can bet it will be talked about tomorrow.  Her central point, that “The America I grew up knowing was centered in self-reliance and filled with the possibilities of living the American dream,” is music to conservative ears.  Not only is she one to watch for this election cycle, she’s a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. We need more people like her.

2. Rick Santorum

Sorry, but Rick Santorum’s speech was a stark reminder of why he was incapable of crossing the finish line in the primaries.  There’s no doubt that Santorum is a nice guy, but in a high profile moment he came across as awkward, off-key, and uncomfortable.  If you’re at the podium waiting for applause that never arrive, something’s seriously wrong, I counted at least two of these strange pauses. Overall, the night's only weak perofrmance.

3. Ann Romney

Ann Romney’s speech was strong, forceful, and determined.  If I have one complaint it’s that, at a time when the conventional wisdom suggests that people want to get to know Mitt Romney on a personal level, her speech didn’t have the warmth that other “wife speeches” have conveyed.  Yes, she described their meeting, their life together, etc, but for me it came across as a little distant, and a little too rehearsed.

Before you start sharpening the knives, let me be clear.  As a political speaker, she performed spectacularly. Her forceful assertion that her husband “will not fail” stands in stark contrast to Obama’s last three years, and managed to call out his failures without naming him directly.  It was powerful in terms of promise for the future, intensely forward thinking, and a strong public debut for a potential first lady.

4. Chris Christie

Chris Christie is an extraordinary public speaker.  If you live in New Jersey, you probably already knew that.  For people in the rest of the country, tonight’s appearance had to be a major eye opener.   His speech, which managed to run the gamut from the greatest generation all the way to New Jersey teacher’s unions, was absolutely riveting. That he managed to draw comparisons between World War II and the November election – without coming across as even remotely pandering – was nothing short of astonishing.  

Inspiring, nuanced, and uncharacteristically subtle, Christie managed to demolish the left, build his own gravitas, promote Romney as the best hope for America, and lead the charge to a better future, all in the space of a few minutes.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it was one of the finest convention speeches in recent memory. In fact, after he left the stage, Juan Williams looked positively devastated as he outlined its many merits.

 

All in all, it was a great first night, full of strong performances.  If the rest of the week is as strong as the first night, the GOP is in for a spectacular week.