A not very bold prediction: Mitt Romney’s speech will go well tonight. Pundits will remark on his previously underappreciated strengths, and may even say that we’re now seeing a new, confident, Romney, a man who looks ready to be president.
Why do I expect that? For the same reason I expect Barack Obama’s speech to go well next week, and why Obama’s 2008 speech and John McCain’s 2008 speech were well-received; these speeches are among the easiest things that a politician will ever do. One speech, with weeks to prepare and rehearse, with three days of warm-ups, and with a packed arena filled with thousands of the candidate’s intense supporters…you really can’t go wrong. I don’t remember any nominee that flubbed this one in the modern era, at least not since George McGovern had to give in the middle of the night after his convention ran off the rails.
What can we expect? Not very much policy; no one has done that all week. Presumably, we’ll get a fair amount of Romney’s personal story, although there’s been relatively little of that so far. Mostly, I’m expecting more of the one thing that the convention has done quite well so far, especially during the broadcast network hour: avoiding anything that could make them seem scary. Someone noted today that we haven’t heard the words “Tea Party” in prime time. We haven’t heard about Bain, by name, either. Nor have we heard about George W. Bush. I don’t expect Romney to change any of that, which is certainly a reasonable choice for them.
Here’s something key to listen for: Have Republicans done much to make the case for putting them in charge?
So far, not really. To my ears, they haven’t even really advanced a convincing indictment of Barack Obama, although Paul Ryan came close in the first part of his speech yesterday. All they have done so far is show that they are not scary to those who want to vote GOP but have been scared off by Bush or Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich or, for that matter, House Republicans in general.
One thing that will be worth looking for tonight is whether Romney avoids some of the more egregious whoppers he’s been telling — beginning with welfare policy — after last night’s factcheckfest on Paul Ryan. If he doesn’t, there’s at least a fair chance that Romney-Ryan lying emerges as a fairly big story over the weekend, perhaps even enough to hurt the immediate polling bounce they should be getting, and perhaps enough to really solidify it as a major theme of his press coverage going forward.
On the other hand, if he passes on welfare and some of the other claims that have been certified “false” or worse by the fact-checkers, then he’ll be losing a chance to trot them out with a very large audience. My guess is that he’ll avoid the worst of it, but it’s one of the things that I’ll be watching for tonight.
And then we’ll see what the weekend polls show.