GOP 2012 convention speakers announced

August 6, 2012

Republicans rolled out a list of headline speakers Monday for their convention in Tampa, a roster covering important demographic and thematic bases, but one that will almost certainly be expanded with the addition of the silver and bronze medalists in the vice presidential selection process.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and the governors of two must-win states, Florida’s Rick Scott and John Kasich of Ohio, are among those who will address the Republican National Convention, which runs Aug. 27-30. Two female state chief executives, Gov. Nikki Haley (S.C.) and Gov. Susana Martinez (N.M.), will also have prominent speaking slots, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which first reported the list.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s announcement of a running mate could come as early as the end of this week. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, will begin a bus tour Friday that will take him to the Washington area, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, for stops in Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami, on the final day of the Summer Olympics.

Conspicuously missing from the speakers list are those thought to be Romney’s vice presidential finalists: Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.), Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (Va.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. It’s difficult to imagine that some, if not all of them, will not eventually get their moment on the podium in Tampa.

Also absent, for the moment at least, are other marquee party names, such as 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.), Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), and a newly minted tea party favorite Senate candidate Ted Cruz (Tex.).

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus told the Times that a keynote speaker will be announced closer to the opening of the convention. He described the names on the initial list as containing “some of our party’s brightest stars, who have governed and led effectively and admirably in their respective roles.”

Decisions about convention speakers are a delicate dance. Party leaders strive for a mix of names who will inspire their base but without rhetoric so incendiary that it would come across to a national television audience as outside the mainstream. A well-received convention speech can launch a political career, as it did for then-Illinois senatorial candidate Barack Obama in 2004.

Other speeches can polarize, sending a party into the general election on difficult footing. Pat Buchanan’s “culture wars” speech on the opening night of the 1992 GOP convention in Houston was widely thought to have hurt President George H.W. Bush’s chances for reelection.

This first list gives Republicans a chance to showcase the country’s first Latina governor, Martinez. Rice, who was floated as a vice presidential possibility, is an African American former secretary of state who can credibly carry the GOP critique of Obama’s foreign policy. Huckabee has big conservative appeal, but an affable, down-home style that is not likely to offend a larger audience.

Republicans also announced Monday that they raised $101.3 million in July. That total represents contributions to the Romney campaign, the Republican National Committee and Romney Victory, a joint RNC-campaign committee.

President Obama, who has been outraised by Romney over the past two months, was scheduled to appear at two fundraisers in Connecticut on Monday.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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