Republican National Convention night one: Winners and Losers

August 28, 2012

TAMPA -- The first night of the Republican National Convention is in the books.

The Fix live-tweeted the whole thing -- and boy are our fingers tired! -- and also took a few notes on who had a good night and who had a bad one.  Our winners and losers are below. Agree? Disagree? The comments section is open for business.

WINNERS

* Ann Romney: Unlike almost everyone who spoke on Tuesday night, Ann Romney isn't -- and never has been -- a politician. That makes her performance that much more impressive. Was she nervous at times? Yup. (Her nervous laugh was a bit jarring.) But, overall Ann Romney did exactly what her husband and his campaign needed her to: she told the story of a Mitt Romney that almost no one in the country knows. She talked about how they met at a high school dance, how he made her laugh, how they ate tuna fish when they were a young married couple.  Her best line? "Mitt doesn't like to talk about how he's helped others," she said. "Because he sees it as a privilege not a political talking point." Cue huge applause.

* Nikki Haley: Of all the men and women touted as rising stars within the GOP who took the stage on Tuesday, the governor of South Carolina was the best. She was poised and relaxed and drew the crowd to their feet with her mentions of the Palmetto State's voter ID law and the National Labor Relations Board fight.  Runner-up for the best performance by a rising star goes to Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz -- although we still aren't sure what to make of his decision to abandon the podium and wander around the stage.

* Chris Christie: Yes, Christie will take some (justified) criticism for spending 95 percent of his speech talking about himself and five percent talking about Mitt Romney. (And that's being generous.) But, Christie burnished the Christie brand with his keynote address, which, after all, was kind of his goal. Christie was blunt and remarkably relaxed. He came across as entirely at ease in his own skin and as close to a regular guy as politics can produce. In short, he did nothing to hurt chatter about his own future as a presidential candidate in 2016 or 2020 -- and that makes him a winner in our scoring system.

* Mia Love: The biggest surprise of the night was this Utah House candidate. While Love, who is running against Rep. Jim Matheson (D) in November, spoke early in the night she acquitted herself quite well with an energetic speech -- and a video that preceded her speech that cast her as sort of Super-everywoman.

* John Kasich: The Ohio governor doesn't have the reputation as a blow-the-doors off speaker but he was near the top on Tuesday night. Kasich, smartly, spoke using only written notes rather than a TelePrompter, which made him seem more authentic and unscripted.  Aside from Love, Kasich might have delivered the biggest surprise --in a good way -- to those watching the convention.

* Bruce Springsteen: Christie came out to a backdrop meant to re-create Springsteen's "Greetings from Asbury Park" album and then the New Jersey governor made reference to a tune by the Boss ("Darkness on the Edge of Town") that also happens to be one of the Fix's favorites. Of course, Springsteen probably wasn't thrilled; his politics don't exactly jibe with those of Christie.

LOSERS

* Kelly Ayotte: The Fix has said, repeatedly, that the New Hampshire Senator has a bright future in the GOP. But, she showed almost none of that promise tonight with a wooden and nervous performance that had a number of people emailing yours truly to ask what all the fuss around Ayotte was about. In her defense, she's not ever been at this level of national politics before but Tuesday night's speech felt like a swing and a miss for Ayotte.

* Brian Sandoval: In the run-up to tonight's slate of speakers, a number of Republican strategists flagged the Nevada governor's address for us as one to pay attention to. Sandoval, after all, is a Hispanic Republican with a terrific resume (former state Attorney general, former federal judge). But his speech felt thin and he was clearly quite nervous.  It was a decidedly forgettable for someone who is seen as a future face of the party.

* The crowd: With the exception of Ann Romney's speech, the live audience at the convention center seemed more polite than pumped up. Christie did everything he could to get people fired up and ready to go -- to borrow a phrase -- and even cajoled them to their feet at the end of his speech. And yet, the crowd felt restrained somehow.  Democrats will almost certainly blame that on a lackluster roster of speakers but it felt less like the fault of those addressing the crowd than of an audience not sure just how much they could clap/jump around/show excitement.

* Extended metaphors: House Speaker John Boehner started it off with the "guy walks into a bar" thing.  Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum took it to a whole new level with his "hands" metaphor.  In speeches like these, where the audience is (at best) paying half-attention to what you are saying, you should stick to being a literalist. If you've got a metaphor you have fallen in love with, get it told quickly.

* Social issues: With the exception of Santorum, not a single candidate dedicated more than a sentence to issues like abortion, traditional marriage and the like. That was not an accident as the Romney speech-vetters clearly wanted to make sure the economy, jobs and the national debt were front and center.

Read more from WPPolitics

Full convention coverage on The Convention Grid

Fact Checker: The RNC's misguided 'You didn't build that' theme

The Take: Chris Christie Rouses GOP convention

Why the GOP is winning the battle over Paul Ryan

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Jon Cohen | August 28, 2012