Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, will get a prime-time slot Thursday when he introduces Romney and, more significantly, introduces himself to much of the American public.
Chris Christie, the Springsteen-loving New Jersey governor who has almost single-handedly put good eaters back in prime time, got his shot Tuesday when he was given the keynoting job. Reviews were mixed; he talked a lot about himself for a long time and may have served up a little too much white meat.
The only Republican of that generation who shines even brighter these days is, obviously, Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who has ridden his budget road maps to superstardom. Any discussion of future presidential hopefuls within the GOP starts with those three.
There is a belief in the hall that the Republicans have a deeper bench than the Democrats. Ask Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor was, not so long ago, a presidential candidate, but now he has settled into the role of elder statesman.
“I think we have more talent,” Giuliani said in the convention hall. “I think we have more women than they have, which is a little strange, since they seem to talk about a war on women.”
He mentioned Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor; Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico; Kelly Ayotte, the senator from New Hampshire; and Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state. The Democrats? Got no one, Giuliani said.
“I think it was an admission that they had nobody when they asked Charlie Crist to speak at their convention,” he said of the former Florida governor and Republican-turned-independent. “He’s sort of a Republican reject.”
Holding forth in the corridor, the bookish columnist George Will said: “Young people are interested in ideas. In June 1980, I believe it was, Pat Moynihan said, ‘Something strange has happened in America. The Republicans are now the party of ideas.’ ”
The next generation of Republican talent, Will said, includes Rubio, Ryan, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The Democratic names that come to Will’s mind instantly: Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, and Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland. “We’ll wait and see if the O’Malleys and Cuomos can generate this kind of excitement,” Will said. But he doubts it, because the GOP stars are more likely to be anti-establishment — and thus more exciting to younger voters. “The Cuomos and O’Malleys seem to have been in the mainstream of their party for 30 years, and that’s not exciting.”
The next big Republican star may not even be in the hall. Recall that Barack Obama, a virtual unknown in his national party, struggled to get into the Democratic National Convention in 2000, just four years before he exploded into stardom with a prime-time convention speech.