The entire Republican National Convention was based on a bad inside joke.
Did you hear the one about the president saying you didn’t build your business? Except he clearly meant you didn’t build the roads and bridges and schools we all use. But let’s pretend he didn’t say that and base our entire convention on it!
And how was this joke supposed to engage or reassure Americans who are out of work or worried because their house is under water? No one bothered to explain. Instead we heard a constant refrain of “We built this!” and cutaway shots to a debt clock that reminded people which president built the surplus and which president blew it.
In contrast, the Democratic National Convention seemed designed to reach key constituents of the president’s winning 2008 coalition. In the early hours, Democrats reassured young people, union workers, Latinos, and women that Democrats champion their issues. In prime time, they targeted the Democratic base with Michele Obama. Bill Clinton spoke directly to swing voters. Finally, Vice President Biden and President Obama made their case to the middle class.
The results were clear: Almost zero bump for Romney, and, to date, as much as a seven-point bump for the president. With a bump like that, shouldn’t Todd Akin demand that it be carried to a second term?
Still, Mitt Romney did one thing right at his convention. He kept the crazy off the stage, or at least out of prime time — almost.
Rick Santorum made a speech about “hands” – not in prime time. Newt Gingrich appeared with his second trophy wife to deliver a benediction on St. Reagan – even earlier in the evening than Santorum. Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann worked the crowd but didn’t make it up on stage. Sarah Palin wasn’t even invited. Birther Donald Trumps’s lame sketch where he likely fired an Obama impersonator was cut completely from the agenda.
Romney even attempted to lurch toward the center by having Clint Eastwood – from Hollywood! – perform a bit of improv before the former governor’s biggest speech of his life. The Eastwood monologue played more like a parody of a Romney supporter than a plea to the center. But it was an attempt.
So what did Mitt do as soon as the Democratic convention was over? He appeared with possibly the most notoriously extreme member of the U.S. House of Representatives – Steve King.
Then the next day he appeared at a speech with extremist icon Pat Robertson.