The Bar Wasn’t Very High, and Romney Cleared It Easily

I agree with Paul’s brief comments last night about Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech. Under the circumstances, Romney was more than good enough. With the exception of the last moments of the speech, he wasn’t as impassioned as he is on the stump. His speech wasn’t as crowd-pleasing to the delegates as Paul Ryan’s or some of the others, because it was soft-edged and lacked red meat. But the delegates, and hard core Republicans like me, weren’t his principal audience: his audience was undecided voters watching on television. And those viewers didn’t have to come away crazy about Romney or inspired by Romney, they just had to conclude that Romney seems like a competent, normal guy who would make a pretty good president. That’s where the bar is.

Put briefly, Romney isn’t going to win the election because he is a great orator. He is going to win the election because Barack Obama inherited a bad economy and made it worse. Romney needs to demonstrate to undecided voters that he is a capable guy who is worth giving a shot, as the alternative to another awful four years. That is a bar that most candidates could get over; Mitt Romney certainly can.

On the whole, the Republican convention was spectacular. To the extent that voters watched, it achieved multiple objectives: great speeches by Republicans from Paul Ryan on down fired up party members; women and minorities were showcased effectively, not as tokens but as conservative Republican leaders; and at key moments, most notably Romney’s acceptance speech, the convention took on a softer tone that implicitly refuted the Democrats’ shrill claims to the effect that Romney is some kind of extremist. So I consider the convention an unqualified success, with one caveat: the networks’ ratings were low, significantly lower even than 2008.

Conventions have generally been losing their luster over the years, and the networks accentuated the trend this year, in hopes of helping President Obama, by reducing coverage to only one hour. I am not sure to what extent the declining audience may have been offset by people watching on YouTube, C-Span, etc., but in general I think many people, perhaps most, are getting their news in bits and pieces these days rather than tuning in to what used to be the big events like the parties’ conventions. So perhaps more people will read about the convention’s big speeches and see clips from them on YouTube, sites like this one, and so on, than actually watched the events live. I hope so, anyway.

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