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First Thoughts: Mixed messages

Mixed messages: Both Ann Romney and Chris Christie gave fine speeches, but they created a disjointed message… Christie raises the bar for Romney… Last night showcased the GOP’s governors and its diverse candidates/officials… Isaac slams into Louisiana… Previewing Ryan’s speech… Is it really Mitt Romney’s party?... On the trail: Romney delivers speech to American Legion conference  in Indianapolis, while Obama stumps in Charlottesville… And did the Sea of Galilee story claim its first victim?

TAMPA, FL -- Ann Romney humanizing her husband and delivering a well-received speech, check. Chris Christie hitting the Democrats and President Obama, as well as making the case that leadership requires tough choices, check. Individually, last night’s two primetime speeches here at the Republican convention accomplished what they set out to do. But taken together, they represented a clash in tone -- with Ann Romney telling the audience she wanted to talk about the power of love, and with Christie declaring, “Tonight, we’re going to choose respect over love.” Christie later added, “Our ideas are right for America, and their ideas have failed America.” Either speech could have concluded the night, but the two addresses didn’t mix well; it was like a meal of blueberry pancakes and ribeye steak, or a dessert of pickles and ice cream. There wasn’t a unifying message, so the parts seemed greater than the whole. Make no mistake: The Romney campaign can take pride in both speeches. And the time constraints and Monday’s cancellation didn’t give them a better alternative. But two polar-opposite addresses created a disjointed message.

*** Christie raises the bar for Romney: So if there’s criticism of Christie’s speech, it wasn’t in the substance -- but rather in the fact that it wasn’t the lasting moment after Ann Romney’s address. In a way, it was classic New Jersey: an interruption. One thing that Christie’s keynote speech did was raise the bar for Romney on Thursday. “You see, Mr. President -- real leaders don’t follow polls,” he said last night. “Real leaders change polls.” But is that a message more suited for Romney or Christie himself? After all, Romney is a politician who has often taken the easier path in politics (running as a supporter of abortion rights in Massachusetts, opposing them when he started eyeing the presidency, downplaying his health-care law, not answering if he would overturn President Obama’s new deportation policy for young undocumented immigrants).

*** Showcasing the GOP’s governors and its diverse candidates: But if the convention planners achieved one goal from last night, it was showcasing the party’s young governors and its diverse candidates and officials. Look at the governors who spoke last night: John Kasich, Mary Fallin, Bob McDonnell, Scott Walker, Brian Sandoval, and Nikki Haley. (In fact, Walker probably brought the crowd to its feet more than any other speaker last night.) And then there was the diversity: Mia Love, Kelly Ayotte, Ted Cruz, and Artur Davis. (Outside of Ann Romney, Christie, and Walker, Love’s short speech might have been the most impressive of the night.) Other things that struck us: Rick Santorum’s speech didn’t deliver the way the Romney campaign had seemed to promise (the welfare attack on Obama fell flat with the audience), and Cruz (with his walking around the stage) appeared to try too hard.

*** Isaac slams into Louisiana: We’ll say a final word about last night: It came as Hurricane Isaac slammed into Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. “Hurricane Isaac spun into the southern Louisiana coast late Tuesday, sending floodwaters surging and unleashing fierce winds as residents hunkered down behind boarded-up windows,” the AP writes. “New Orleans calmly waited out another storm on the eve of Hurricane Katrina's seventh anniversary, hoping the city's strengthened levees would hold.” Ann Romney asked the audience to “hope and pray” that everyone on Gulf Coast was safe. But outside of that, the references to Isaac were sparse. 

*** Previewing Ryan’s speech: We now turn to tonight’s schedule of activities at the GOP convention, which will be highlighted by Paul Ryan’s speech accepting the party’s vice-presidential nomination. Already a full-fledged star in the Republican Party, Ryan has the potential to rock the crowd here in Tampa. After all, he can do it with biography (his family, the loss of his father, his love of hunting) as well as policy (the Ryan budget). And it will be the biggest speech of his political career so far. But let's also not get too carried away about the VP nominee speech; Palin's was the exception. (Beyond her, name another impactful VP nominee speech. The memorable convo speeches are almost all keynotes, spouses and top of tickets, not the VP.) The Romney camp says that, in Wisconsin, it will hold 20 watch parties of Ryan’s speech, and that there will be a special event in his hometown of Janesville. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has produced this web video before Ryan’s speech tonight. Other stories we’ll be watching tonight: Will Mike Huckabee say anything about Todd Akin? And how will Condi Rice be received? We can’t think of her ever making a true public political speech before… 

*** Wednesday’s schedule (the theme is “We change it”):

7:00 pm ET hour: Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul
8:00 pm hour: John McCain, John Thune, Rob Portman,
9:00 pm hour: Luis Fortuno, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee
10:00 pm hour: Condi Rice, Susana Martinez, Paul Ryan

*** Is this really Romney’s party? Don’t miss this analysis from the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith: “Mitt Romney on Tuesday officially became the leader of the Republican Party. What's unclear is how much it's really his Republican Party. Talk to delegates in and around the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and they're more likely to gush about Chris Christie or Marco Rubio than their nominee. Ask them to explain Romney's agenda and ideology and they point enthusiastically to running mate Paul Ryan's. ‘The party's not defined by the top of the ticket anymore. The party is defined by the broader community of people who choose to associate and participate,'' said Matt Kibbe, chairman of FreedomWorks, the grass roots organizing group aligned with tea party conservatives. ’It's not so much about Mitt.’”

*** On the trail: The day before his big acceptance speech, Romney addresses the American Legion’s national conference in Indianapolis, IN… And President Obama finishes his two-day swing to college towns, speaking in Charlottesville, VA  30 minutes later at 3:30 pm ET.

*** Did that dip in the Sea of Galilee claim its first victim? Arizona held its primaries last night, and David Schweikert (R) defeated Ben Quayle (R) in the state’s member-vs.-member contest.Taegan Goddard's Political Wire spots this in the Arizona Republic's write-up  of the race. “As ballots rolled in, Quayle campaign volunteer Paul Gorman attributed the loss to fallout from a recent story about Congress members partying in Israel, including one who stripped naked to swim. Quayle was on the trip but said he only took a brief, reverent dip in the Sea of Galilee.” The race was always going to be tough for Quayle, but the timing of the Sea of Galilee story sure didn’t help. In other news out of Arizona, we have our Senate match up -- Jeff Flake (R) vs. Richard Carmona (D).

Countdown to Dem convention: 5 days
Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 35 days
Countdown to VP debate: 43 days
Countdown to 2nd presidential debate: 48 days
Countdown to 3rd presidential debate: 54 days
Countdown to Election Day: 69 days

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