Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes from Tampa

By Charles Cullen

Nothing unusual is going on in Florida. Most speakers today seem content (so far) to stick to the script of dog-whistle politics and desperate attempts to blame the President for all the economic woes the Republicans should be taking responsibility for. But Sean Duffy, congressman from Wisconsin, just levelled one of the weirdest attacks on any politician I've ever heard. He accused Obama of orchestrating "one of the worst recoveries" ever. I'm not sure what to make of this ... is it a new talking point? Romney would have done better, say? Was it a slip of the tongue? Is he just off script? I was under the impression that Republicans were obligated to resist admitting that any kind of recovery had taken place anywhere, for anyone, unless absolutely cornered. Only then could they acknowledge that Obama pulled us from the brink of a second Great Depression. They were still expected to bend the truth and the job numbers, and at all costs avoid a comparison to Obama's tenure v. Bush's. But Duffy seemed to miss that memo.

Accusing someone of engineering a bad recovery insists that one ask why we needed to recover in the first place. Who made the mess we're recovering from? Who engineered the crash? Considering the brevity of Duffy's speech, I have to think that it's just one congressmen's bizzaro-world-view rather than a trial run for a new political meme.

Strike that. Something unusual is going on in Florida; the Ron Paul folks have made their move with boos and shouting. They actually had to be gavelled down so that Zoriada Fonalledas could speak. RNC chairman Reince Priebus continues to sneer and wink, in an apparent attempt to maintain good humor with the Ron Paul Contingent — some of whom have attached clothes pins to their noses as if to say "this stinks," and none of whom seem to have any problem yelling at the speakers — be they Fonalledas, John Boehner, Sununu, or McDonnell. The Republican speakers continue to announce "without objection the motion passes," and "the aye's have it." But there seems to be considerable and vocal objection along with quite a few "nays." This is by no means a true uprising (I don't think) but Republicans are generally much more averse to debate, especially when the cameras are rolling.

Most of the boos and booers have now been silenced, but this can't be a good sign for Romney. He needs to run a very precise, very organized campaign if he's going to upset a sitting President who just so happens to be ahead, is a fantastic orator, mops the floor with debate opponents, and, among other things, ordered the raid that killed Bin Laden.

Maybe I'm just not seeing it. Maybe the Democrats will run a terrible campaign (I've seen it happen before), maybe Romney has a real ace in the hole and he's just been pretending to be boring, distant, and out of touch. But somehow I don't think so. This is the Mitt we know. He'll hope for continuing economic difficulty, and pray that Obama's ethnicity is enough to frighten people into voting for Romney. Seems like a risky and nauseating political strategy.

In the spirit of journalistic honesty, I must say that I am too young or was too distracted to remember when Republican conventions were much more than candidate-coronation ceremonies heading into the general election. I know that Ron Paul has always had a devoted following, but I was surprised by the tenacity of his supporters this time around and by the number of states that allocated him a significant portion of the their delegates BEFORE Romney was "Over the Top." Quite a few states were giving a portion of delegates to Santorum, others had delegates abstaining from the vote. This tells me that even in the red states (Texas), the swing states, where it would have looked really good for Romney to get all the delegates (Iowa), he just couldn't pull it off.

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