Sununu’s prediction of the demise of an electoral tradition is probably overstated, and a reaffirmation of his reputation for cantakerousness. But the sentiment behind it — that conventions are straining the limits of their usefulness — is widely shared, and GOP leaders including House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the party might do well to follow the Democrats’ lead and scale their event back to three days.
Modern-day conventions come months after a party has made up its mind on a nominee. The real business is to give a boost to that candidate, and to spruce up a party’s image for the election.
The convention drama long ago moved from the back room to the television screen. But the Nielsen ratings estimate of the first night’s audience Tuesday was only 22.3 million viewers over seven networks, down by almost 1 million from the number who had watched the first night of the GOP’s 2008 convention. (In that year, as in this, a hurricane forced the proceedings to be delayed by a day.) And of that number, about two-thirds were over the age of 55.
The dropoff in viewership from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s vice presidential acceptance speech in 2008 (37.2 million) to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (21.9 million) was even sharper, a plunge of more than 40 percent.
Still, Republicans here believed that they gained some ground, at least marginally, by giving a clearer definition to their ticket and their party.
Republicans had described the Tampa convention as an opportunity to give a national introduction to their nominee — who remains a something of a one-dimensional figure to many voters, despite the fact that he has been running for president, pretty much nonstop, for the last six years.
His wife Ann’s speech on Tuesday’s opening night was well-received, but offered little by way of new information about Romney. To that end, some of the most humanizing presentations came Thursday night, as longtime friends described a man who would help a harried mother with her laundry, assist a dying child who wanted to write a will, and believe in a business when it was still an entrepreneur’s dream.
Republicans also hoped they had laid out an effective critique that Democrats will have to answer when they meet next week in Charlotte to nominate President Obama for a second term.
Again and again from the stage, convention speakers invoked a now-infamous snippet from a recent Obama speech — “You didn’t build that” — which they contend shows his misunderstanding of how American enterprise works.