As the Republican National Convention gets ready to kick off tomorrow in Tampa Bay, Fla., here are three things to look for during the event that will confirm Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate.
Hurricane Isaac: Can Romney show Americans that he feels their pain?
As the Republican Party convenes in Tampa to formally nominate Romney and Paul Ryan for President and Vice-President, Hurricane Isaac is poised to rain on their parade. Political conventions are usually a sure-fire way for the candidates to generate a lot of positive media coverage and suck up much of the news cycle. The Romney campaign was counting on the carefully scripted convention to introduce Mitt on its own terms, as a successful businessman and conservative, all-American family guy.
Isaac’s arrival will give the Romney camp an unexpected opportunity to be what everyone assumes he is not: empathetic and likable. Political conventions are formally about nominating candidates and ratifying platforms, but in reality, they are a week of extravagant parties and high-level networking.
Romney faces the unenviable task of presiding over a celebratory, expensive event while his fellow Americans may be facing loss of life and property. Polling data show that although the race between Romney and President Barack Obama is very tight, Americans still generally don’t like Romney and don’t believe he cares about people like them. As his wife Ann and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie give speeches on Tuesday night, right as the worst of the storm is supposed to be hitting the Gulf Coast, the country will be reminded of George W. Bush’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, seven years ago exactly. President Obama will presumably be acting extra-presidential during the crisis and a barrage of attacks from the GOP convention may not go over so well this particular week.
Follow the money, some of it is ours
This presidential campaign is the first since the Supreme Court ruled there could be no limit on corporate money in politics. Super PACs have been saturating the airwaves with political ads for almost a year, but now they get to eat their cake, too. While we won’t know the full accounting of which individuals and corporations are funding the convention in Tampa until October, when official reports have to be filed, many companies and wealthy donors are using the convention as a mega-lobbying event, planning parties, dinners and events for the who’s who of the GOP.
In addition to the long list of corporations sponsoring the Republican convention, which include Publix, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), TECO Energy (NYSE:TE), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and Walmart (NYSE:WMT), the American taxpayers will also be footing some of the bill. The “host committees” of each party receive $18 million in taxpayer funds for their conventions. That is in addition to the estimated $50 million we the people will be providing to help with security at the event. Keep in this in mind when Romney and Ryan begin their prime-time rants against excessive government spending.
The Republican platform
In years past, the official party platform was fodder for only the most serious policy junkies among us. This year, however, is different. When the delegates in Tampa vote to ratify the platform, they will be affirming the party’s unwavering commitment to ban abortion.
While the pro-life position has been the official party line for some time, the difference this year is that it will come in the wake of Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin’s extraordinarily controversial claim that “legitimate” rape does not cause pregnancy and thus is not a reason to restrict the right to an abortion. The official platform of the GOP will not include any exceptions for abortion, except perhaps for the life of the mother.
Conventional wisdom and polling data tells us that most voters are primarily concerned about the economy this year, but the abortion issue has muscled its way into the debate. Although several high-level Republicans have called for Akin to quit his race, he shows no signs of doing so. Instead, he has won the support of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a favorite among evangelicals, who will be given a prime-time speaking role at the convention. While Romney and company would have preferred to put the Akin affair behind them, it will only be highlighted at the convention. This sub-plot threatens to muddy the overall economic message the Republicans hope to send.
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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