The Republican National Convention, circa 2012
In a few days, Republicans will head to Tampa, Florida, to begin the Republican National Convention. They will be joined in Florida by about 50,000 delegates, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, as well as a few uninvited guests, such as Vice President Joe Biden, and, possibly, Hurricane Issac. National Republicans, Florida Republicans, Mitt Romney's campaign, closely interested Republican voters and closely interested Democratic leaders and voters, will all be crossing their fingers this week, for different reasons.
There is a sense of destiny in the air, for those who follow politics. It is convention time, you see, and Mitt Romney will finally get the chance to shape his political destiny. Many Republican leaders and figures will speak at the convention, culminating in Mitt's speech to the delegates. The Romney campaign has had a tough summer, with only one bright spot in the Paul Ryan choice as V.P nominee. Romney has not only allowed Obama and the Democrats to define him as a candidate, but he has also given them the tools to do it.
Romney had to mention that he only paid thirteen percent in taxes, after getting in a scuffle with Harry Ried, who theorized that Romney pays no taxes at all. Thirteen is better than Zero, but, then again, Romney does himself no good when he talks about his money. All he has done this summer is refuse to release his tax returns, and instead of going away, as Romney might have hoped, the whole thing snowballed into a political issue worthy of the Obama campaigns notice.
Romney did choose Paul Ryan as his running mate, which undoubtedly had the desired effect. Romney has indeed energized his base, and has made people who were always going to vote for him even more likely to vote for him. Meanwhile, the Independents, who were always going to decide the race, have been more critical in their appraisal of Ryan. His Medicare plan is opposed by a majority of voters, and even though the plan is more realistic than it may at first seem, try telling that to most of the above mentioned voters. In choosing Ryan, Romney chose to bring the budget debate to the center of his campaign. It was just unfortunate that Obama was always itching to have that debate.
So Romney, after a summer of being defined as a rich, elitist, upper class snob, who, with his similarly afflicted wife intends to become President in order to lower his own taxes (for that sums up Obama's attack strategy) really needs an opportunity to be himself, and to lay out his agenda. The Republican National Convention will give him just that opportunity. As in all things, only Romney can possibly do himself any real damage. Looking at Romney's track record so far, one feels the need to run after the man, shouting, "Mitt, be careful!"
But there are some things beyond even the Republican Party's control, and the first has to do with politics. If there was ever a time when political parties could convene in peace, those times are long gone. Joe Biden himself will be campaigning in Florida this very week, for the obvious reason of diverting attention away from Mitt Romney. I list this one as the first obstacle, because, knowing Joe Biden, it is quite possible that any attention he attracts to himself will be unhelpful to President Obama.
The second obstacle is even more problematic. This one has to do with nature, and nothing less than a hurricane is churning towards the Gulf Coast. At one time, it seemed more of a nuisance to the Republicans, and one that was amusing to Democrats. Now, the Hurricane is gaining strength, and is heading towards New Orleans. It is becoming more than a minor political blip, and any devastation it could possibly cause will do the Republicans no good, because attention will have been diverted. At the least, it will do what most hurricanes do, and that is enough to get the name of the storm on headlines. At worst, we may have a very serious problem ahead, and that will distract from the November elections anyway.
Romney and the Republicans have a chance to define themselves at this convention, and, judging from their platform, they are not off to a very good start. The Republican Party platform has some controversial planks this year, and Romney will want to distance himself from some of them. But the bigger problems now are these; Romney's tax returns, Ryan's budget cuts to Medicare, Joe Biden, and a Hurricane. Let the Conventions begin...