Goodbye, Tampa . . . hello, Charlotte

Anthony Moretti

Anthony Moretti, RMU Journalism Professor

By time most of you read this post, I will be somewhere between Tampa and Charlotte. Early Friday morning, four students and I leave Florida and one national political convention for North Carolina and another national political convention.

Those students (plus one more who is traveling separately and will meet us in Charlotte) are part of the Leadership in Communications program offered through The Washington Center.

We spent two weeks in Tampa in seminars, group discussions and other academic events gaining an appreciation for the political process and the media. The students completed a fieldwork experience with a news agency; they also will have one in Charlotte.

They have various memories of the past two weeks, as do I. But more important to me is the take-away moments from the Republican National Convention. So, as I put the RNC into my 30,000-feet rear view mirror (or is it better described as a 30,000-feet airplane window?), I see the following themes emanating from the past three nights:

1. Mitt Romney is a good guy and you the voter really need to get to know him.With the exception of the remarkable speech given by Ann Romney, the Republicans did not sufficiently complete this task (though Mitt Romney gave a valiant effort). No, the goal was not to get undecided voters to conclude that Romney was a really cool guy, but it was to get them to see him as the so-called Average Joe. In my mind, he still looks like Affluent Mitt.

2. Barack Obama has delivered little as president. Score this one a win for the GOP. Speaker after speaker hammered at what Republicans see as Obama’s failed political record. Anyone unsure about their opinion of Obama as a political leader has plenty of material to begin making that determination. (And I say that presuming, of course, that those undecided men and women will watch next week’s Democratic National Convention before making any kind of final judgment.)

3. The Republican Party is not going to overturn abortion or otherwise reintroduce a so-called war on women. Yes, I know what the party platform says, and, yes, I know that the GOP still believes in the right to life, but the party is not going to risk losing this election by turning off so-called suburban moms who remain undecided about their vote. Romney all but said it in his acceptance speech as he talked about strong political and business women (though he should have been clearer about his stance on social issues). Oh, and despite the many pro-Todd Akin buttons worn by the Missouri delegation, the GOP’s public message remains consistent: Akin is a “legitimate” idiot.

4. The future of the GOP remains in flux. The following math lesson explains why you saw so many people of color over the past three nights at the podium: The core of the GOP remains overwhelmingly white. And as a percentage of the population, whites are not going to remain the majority much longer. If the Republican Party cannot attract and keep Hispanics, it is doomed. There might have been color at the convention but substance has to follow.

5. The soul of the GOP also remains uneasy. The GOP’s tent “right” now includes libertarians who remain loyal to retiring Texas congressman Ron Paul, Tea Party supporters who still adore Sarah Palin (though vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan will fit the bill) and social conservatives who see Rick Santorum as their guy. If Mitt Romney loses in November, then the following fight will take place: Our party ran a moderate in 2012 and lost, and one in 2008 and lost, so how about we run a real conservative in 2016? That would be one heck of a fight, and at this convention, the Republican Party failed miserably in dousing some of that anger.

Okay, Democrats, now it’s your turn to grab the spotlight. I’ll be watching.