5 speakers to watch on Wednesday at the Republican National Convention

August 29, 2012

TAMPA -- It's hump day at the Republican National Convention.


With nearly two dozen speakers scheduled to address the delegates Wednesday night, it's tough to know where to look and when. That's where we come in. Below are five speakers (and the times they are set to speak) to keep an eye on this evening.

* Mitch McConnell/Rand Paul (7 pm hour): The two Republican Senators from Kentucky make for an intriguing pair.  McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, will speak first and, as is his reputation, go right after President Obama. "He hasn't been working to earn reelection," McConnell will say, according to excerpts provided to the Fix. "He's been working to earn a spot on the PGA tour.” Oomph.

Then will come Paul, the heir to the political movement built by Texas Rep. Ron Paul (aka his dad).  Paul has made no secret of his ambitions on the national stage (he will almost certainly run for president at the next possible opportunity) and is a more polished -- and politically savvy -- than his father. Expect the frustrated Paul forces to go bananas for Rand.

* John Thune (8 pm hour): The South Dakota Senator is a bit of a forgotten man these days when talk turns the future stars of the Republican party. He shouldn't be. He's charismatic, handsome, and from the middle of America. This speech offers Thune a chance to re-insert his name into the 2016/2020 conversation alongside people like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.  Thune has stepped back when other national opportunities have presented themselves -- like running for president in 2012.  Will he step up this time?

* Condi Rice (10 pm hour): The former Secretary of State's speech could go in a lot of different directions, which is what makes it so interesting. Does Rice spend time talking about foreign policy and touting Romney's (somewhat thin) credentials on that subject? Does she, the most prominent African American in the GOP, use her speech to tout the Republican party as one of inclusiveness for all minorities? Or does she do neither/both? Rice's speech will kick off the networks' primetime coverage meaning that whatever rhetorical direction she chooses to head will gets scads of media attention.

* Paul Ryan (10 pm hour): For many Americans, tonight's speech will be the first time that they have heard the Republican vice presidential nominee speak at any length since he was chosen by Mitt Romney a few weeks back. (Roughly one in five people still don't know enough about Ryan to offer an opinion on him in Washington Post-ABC News polling.)  Ryan is almost certain to play to the strengths of his growing national image -- as a sober policy mind willing to tell the public hard truths because a) they need to hear it and b) they are ready to hear it.  While Ryan will likely spend a fair amount of time talking up Romney, don't forget that no matter what happens this November the Wisconsin Congressman will be on the short list as a presidential candidate in his own right in 2016/2020. That makes tonight's speech doubly important for him.

For more on what Ryan will say -- and how he'll say it -- check out our video analysis below.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Aaron Blake | August 29, 2012