Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are the twin engines picked to power the formal launch of the Tampa convention.
Ann Romney will talk about who Mitt Romney is and Christie will talk about what challenges Romney will face as president. It is a clever pairing. Ann Romney will offer some sugar, and Christie will caramelize it with a blowtorch.
Ann Romney is good, and she will be wildly received in the convention hall. Her challenge will be to speak effectively to a bigger audience — not just to the public, but to the commentators and opinion leaders who will microscopically critique her performance. As is the case with most convention speeches, more voters will see the post-speech analysis than will see the speech itself. If Ann Romney presents a picture of Mitt Romney and their family that is too perfect, cynical viewers and commentators could compare it to their own lives and decide the Romneys live in a surreal world and can't possibly relate to the average American. It will be hard for Ann Romney to effectively and gracefully talk about their family challenges and her own battle with cancer in order to humanize her husband and convince others that the Romneys do appreciate the real problems Americans face. I think she is the most talented performer in the family, and if any Romney can pull it off, she can.
On the other hand, as Christie outlines the problems President Romney would face, he could inadvertently convince many attending the convention and the viewers at home that he is the guy we need in the White House. He has to make his speech about Romney.
Christie possesses a rare quality in American politics today. That is, people think that when they listen to him they might actually learn something. Voters want facts, options and solutions. Christie tells the informed truth. He doesn't use tired talking points, cliché slogans or pointless cheering. Ross Perot had this ability (before he was revealed to be nuts), Bill Clinton had it, and Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels have it, as does Paul Ryan. Sadly, Mitt Romney does not. Christie needs to be convincing about Romney, not Christie. He is such a force of nature that it will be hard for him not to leave a lot of people thinking he should be the final speaker on Thursday night.