The reviews of Romney’s speech were generally very positive. Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential running mate, drew universally negative grades from media fact-checkers for a number of statements, but helped fire up the conservative base.
Ann Romney was widely praised for her speech, particularly the latter portions that dealt with her husband, their marriage and their family. She remains his most potent asset in helping to humanize him — and offers some steely resistance to critics from the outside.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who introduced Romney on Thursday, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who delivered the keynote address on Tuesday, played their roles effectively, though Rubio got better reviews than did Christie.
But what happened with Eastwood is a reminder of a larger reality about campaigns these days. No matter how scripted, no matter how carefully planned, no matter how well executed, there are always things that go wrong — and when they do, those events can become momentarily supersized, overshadowing all the good things a campaign has done.
That has been part of the story of the campaign so far. It’s described repeatedly as a big election, a clash of competing visions, a contest between two candidates with dramatically different visions and starkly different views about the role of government and business, the public sector and the private sector. But little things keep getting in the way — temporary controversies or lingering discussions about issues that don’t rise to that level.
The beast keeps complaining about that, asking why the candidates can’t keep their focus on the big picture and the big issues. But when Clint Eastwood walks onstage and starts talking to an empty chair, the urge to focus on it with the mega-wattage that Twitter and cable are capable of — and via all the other ways in which political communication takes place — is irresistible.
Eastwood will be forgotten pretty quickly — not the image of him onstage, but the significance of the moment in the campaign. Romney and Ryan left Tampa on Friday morning. Obama and the Democrats will start to flow into Charlotte over the weekend.
The next chapter in the campaign will begin. The big debate will reengage. Attention will shift back to the issues that really count — until the next Eastwood-like moment distracts everyone again.
For more Dan Balz columns, go to postpolitics.com.