Who's Speaking at the RNC and Who, Notably, Isn't

You can tell a party’s strategy not just by whom they invite to the party, but by who is left off the speaker’s dais.

Next week’s Republican National Convention features a well-scripted mix of diverse names and faces designed to paint an attractive picture not just for Republicans but for the undecided or persuadable in the TV audience.


But it also leaves off some key names that most would associate strongly with the Republican story over the past four years — and with the GOP’s future.

Barring a change in schedule by Hurricane Isaac, the convention is opening Monday with the formality of NRC Chairman Reince Priebus welcoming delegates, the Oak Ridge Boys singing the national anthem, and procedural steps by convention chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio), Rules Committee Chairman John Sununu, Resolutions Committee Chairman Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.), and Resolutions Co-Chairmen Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

As afternoon turns into the primetime session, the speaker of the House returns for remarks, along with hosting Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), Texas Senate Republican candidate Ted Cruz, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Puerto Rican first lady Lucé Vela Fortuño, and Ann Romney.

The first day’s lineup is a microcosm of the party mix that convention organizers want the national audience to digest. You have the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, the first and only nods to the Tea Party, a rising-star woman governor, and a mix of ethnic diversity. As the tussle over Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) delegates continues and the Paulstock festival is planned to rock another part of Tampa, the Rand Paul slot is clearly an attempt to appease the libertarian wing — though at CPAC, the Paulistas wanted to be more excited at Rand over Ron than they actually were, as father and son don’t hit all the same notes.


Rand Paul is the only member of the more than five-dozen strong Tea Party Caucus in Congress who has a convention speaking role during the week. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have been prominent proponents of the Tea Party platform in the upper chamber in the 112th Congress, but neither is speaking.

Also missing from the week’s speeches are Tea Party favorite Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). The first black Republican to be elected from the South since Reconstruction, Scott has served as one of two freshman liaisons to GOP leadership and has succeeded at bringing members of both parties together to promote entrepreneurship through his Revitalizing America initiative. It’s hard to think of a better guy to get up and counter President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” meme.

The convention will use Davis, a co-chairman of Obama’s 2008 campaign, as a welcome mat to invite other Democrats and independents frustrated with the past four years to come over and support Romney. Expect this speech to be heavy on the struggling economy and stubborn unemployment rate.

On Tuesday evening the RNC will press the “We Built It” theme with a governor-heavy slate.

Mia Love, the Saratoga Springs, Utah, mayor running for the House, will speak along with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).


Then comes the gubernatorial flood: John Kasich (Ohio), Mary Fallin (Okla.), McDonnell, Scott Walker (Wis.), Bobby Jindal (La.), Susana Martinez (N.M.), and Chris Christie (N.J.). In the middle of the governor-centric spree will be Sher Valenzuela, a small-business owner running for lieutenant governor in Delaware.

Santorum is the only of Romney’s competitors in the GOP primary to have a speaking role at the convention. And if there’s one thing we learned this primary season, it’s that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (a previous RNC speaker) is great at giving a speech (see: 10th Amendment, and one of the only speakers to really rile up the base at CPAC) if not great at debating. Perry’s not an enthusiastic supporter of Romney, but neither is Santorum. Santorum is strong among social conservatives, but the GOP goes into the convention with a renewed focus on social issues that Romney’s team doesn’t want.

Newt Gingrich was not given a speaking slot, but will be channeling his inner wonk — aka why he was the debate most really wanted to see vs. Obama — by hosting a series of public-policy workshops for delegates. “Trust me, anybody who wants to see me will have more than enough opportunity during the convention. I’ll probably have more total time than anybody thought possible,” he told CNN earlier this month.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is supposed to be on hand in Tampa for a Tea Party rally with Herman Cain. Jon Huntsman might have a speaking slot, according to the rumor mill, just at the convention the following week in Charlotte.


Missing on the governors’ list? Arizona’s Jan Brewer, who would certainly excite the crowd considering her unabashed habit of telling Obama where to stick it, but would take the conversation a place convention organizers assuredly don’t want it to go — especially as they’re taking concerted steps to put party diversity on display.

On Wednesday the RNC theme turns to “We Can Change It,” beginning with someone who wants to change his title in the 113th Congress: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will deliver remarks, though his running mate Sarah Palin won’t have a speaking role. Attorneys General Pam Bondi (Fla.) and Sam Olens (Ga.) will then speak and be lauded for their efforts to curb administration overreach.

Then comes the parade of coulda-been veeps: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and she of the wild VP Internet rumors, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They’ll lead up to the keynote of the night from vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Missing from convention speaking slots, though, are House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Along with Ryan, they are the Young Guns movement that blossomed into Ryan’s budget committee chairmanship and now the vice presidential nod. The Young Guns have not only seen success in getting GOPs elected but in pushing policies like Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint. It’s odd to see no role for the other two members of that team, a pair of top House leaders as well.


The last night of the convention opens with a wise choice: Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), whose bid to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has moved from toss-up to leaning in favor of the incumbent. This will give Mack valuable national exposure, but the RNC speaking roster certainly isn’t a roll call of Senate candidates who could use a nudge: Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) would have been a good speaker, and another candidate trying to unseat a Democratic incumbent in a toss-up race — 34-year-old state Treasurer Josh Mandel, in swing-state Ohio — won’t be appearing. Neither will former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), fighting for an open seat vs. former DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, but organizers are probably leery of having the man of the “macaca moment” in a prominent spot so soon after Todd Akin’s remarks.

Another Senate candidate not on the speakers’ list is Richard Mourdock, though the party may be peeved that the safe GOP seat under Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) is now a dead heat in the polls with Blue Dog Rep. Joe Donnelly and an official toss-up.

The Thursday night slate continues with Bob White, chairman of Romney for President campaign, former Massachusetts Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, former Massachusetts Secretary of Workforce Jane Edmonds, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Romney opted against putting Rubio on his ticket, but he sure could use the senator to fire up the crowd before his own speech to delegates caps off the convention.



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