By Bob Cusack - 08/31/12 04:44 AM EDT
TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican convention took several twists and turns, and churned out a slew of political winners and losers.
Despite angst within the party leading up to the high-profile gathering, the GOP convention appears to have been a success. Republicans are more unified and it’s likely that Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, will get a post-convention bounce.
A rundown of the convention’s winners and losers follows.
The Wisconsin lawmaker delivered the speech of the convention, and one that will be talked about for years. In a party prone to select the next guy in line to be its next presidential nominee, Ryan is well positioned for 2016 or 2020.
Her speech on Tuesday night attracted rave reviews, and Republicans aides believe it will help her husband close the gender gap with President Obama. Ann Romney sought to personalize her husband, and emphasize that they both understand people’s every day struggles. She also didn’t shy away from firing a salvo at the president, saying, “Then he started a business — one he built himself, by the way.”
There were so many things that could have gone wrong in Tampa, most notably Hurricane Isaac and widespread Ron Paul protests. The chairman of the Republican National Committee was under enormous pressure as Isaac approached Florida, facing big decisions on if, and how, to change the schedule. Priebus made the right calls and got a break when Isaac didn’t hit Tampa. The Paul people didn’t hold a major disruption, and to the delight of the GOP base, Preibus went toe-to-toe with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on air. However, the decision to let Clint Eastwood go on prime time without a teleprompter will be second-guessed for a long time.
The former secretary of State delivered a forceful speech aimed at boosting Romney’s foreign policy credentials. Weeks ago, speculation was high that Romney would select Rice as his running mate. That caused concern among social conservatives, who note that Rice has described herself as “mildly pro-choice.” While it remains to be seen whether Rice will seek an elected office, it is clear that Rice is a star in the party.
The Kentucky Republican has been mentioned as a possible 2016 or 2020 presidential candidate, and his stock went up this week. Unlike his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the senator has showed a willingness to work with party officials. In his speech this week, Paul delivered a stinging attack on Obama’s healthcare law. If the senator can walk the delicate line of coalescing his father’s supporters while playing well with the party’s kingmakers, he will have an extremely bright future.
Christie’s convention’s keynote speech focused a lot on Christie. The New Jersey governor used his “I” and “me” more than 40 times while first mentioning Romney in the latter half of his address. The buzz about Christie’s presidential aspirations took a hit, though he has to first focus on winning reelection next year.
His speech was memorable and the GOP delegates ate it up, but it was uneven, rambling and bizarre. Media reports indicated Romney advisers were wincing backstage. It is safe to say that the actor/director will not be joining Romney on the road this fall.
Ron Paul supporters
They were loud, but there weren’t many of them. Romney’s campaign did not let them become a big storyline of the convention.
There were a lot of rumors that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) would drop his Senate bid while Republicans gathered in Tampa. It didn’t happen, and the defiant House lawmaker actually expanded his campaign staff this week. Senate Republicans have tried to force him out, but it looks like Akin is in for the long haul. And that hampers the GOP’s chances of winning back the upper chamber.
Romney delivered a solid, but not spectacular, speech. Eastwood's address was a clear distraction. Romney tried to show he can feel people’s pain while defending his tenure at Bain Capital and attacking the president. The 37-minute address had some effective lines. Yet, it did not electrify the crowd. The bottom line is that Romney can defeat Obama, but he remains the underdog.