Foreign policy: Which, by extension, could put “Iran” in the winners column. The only speeches to really focus on the role of the U.S. in the world were ably delivered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rice. Despite hitting on crucial points from defense cuts to the Reagan philosophy of American leadership, the RNC crowd wasn’t especially jazzed. The topic was just touched on by some other speakers, including Romney. This is a reflection of the growing split between non-interventionists and hawks, and how economic woes at home have overshadowed the world falling down around the ears of many in various corners of the globe.
Tea Party: The closest mention the movement got was a nod to the primary defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) — which probably thrilled the RNC, now facing a potentially lost seat — as “something that has dumbfounded the chattering class” in the televangelist-style speech of Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz. But this could also portend a Tea Party break from the GOP after this election cycle, so stay tuned. Tea Partiers weren’t surprised that they were stuck in the cheap seats, so to speak, by the RNC, and the convention experience could add fuel to their exit strategy.
Big Tent: It’s highly debatable whether the RNC handled the Ron Paul delegates in the best way possible. And delegates were understandably up in arms over a rule change that allows the GOP presidential candidate to veto and replace state delegates. The most damaging optics, though, came during the roll call of states for the party’s nomination. Many states announced a handful of delegate votes for Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), and even former governors Buddy Roemer (R-La.) and Jon Huntsman (R-Utah). Yet in reading back each state’s votes, the RNC only announced the votes for Romney. In the committee’s zeal to force a picture of unquestioning party unity around the winning candidate, an unattractive portrait of exclusion and control was painted.
Santorum: Remember that maxim about not losing your big speech to a slip that overshadows what you were actually trying to say? The former Romney challenger torpedoed that in reminiscing on his campaign meet-and-greets across the country, using “hands” 25 times. Suddenly my Twitter timeline was full of “Sweet Caroline” lyrics (“hands… touching hands…”), and Santorum’s speech, which included some touching parts, was relegated to jokes (not just for this, but for sounding like a nomination acceptance speech). Honorable mention to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for this spiel to illustrate the importance of school choice: “Go down in the supermarket aisle and you will find an incredible selection of milk. You can get a whole milk, buttermilk, 2 percent milk, low-fat milk, or skim milk, organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D. There’s flavored milk, chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. And it doesn’t even taste like milk. They even make milk for people who cannot drink milk.”
Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty: Not bad, not good, and just as bland (save for their attempts at humor) as everyone feared in the veepstakes speculation. The two might look forward to cabinet posts in a future Republican administration, but will probably cease to be heard on the lips of anyone talking about a national ticket.