On Tuesday evening in Tampa, Mitt Romney all but became the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party, when New Jersey's delegation to the Republican National Convention pushed him over the 1,144-vote threshold. (Romney will formally become the nominee on Thursday, after the convention chairman accepts the delegates' vote tally.) Less than an hour later, the GOP began its push to boost Romney's image and low popularity numbers, and make the party's case against giving President Obama a second term. Here, four highlights from the first night of the GOP convention:
1. Ann Romney touts love, her husband, and women
The expectations for Ann Romney's primetime speech "were sky high," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. "Could she 'humanize' her husband? Could she single-handedly close the gender gap?" Time will tell, but from her beginning line — "I want to talk to you about love" — to her final appeal that her husband "will not fail," she certainly "delivered as promised." The trouble is, "she wasn't just trying to humanize her husband, she was trying to make us love him," says Rachael Larimore at Slate. "That's a tall order," and unnecessary. Mitt needs us to believe he can fix America; "we don't need to love him." Mrs. Romney also poured on the female-vote-trawling "a little thick" with her unsubtle "I love you, women!" says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. But overall she was fabulous: With her "Julie Andrews style and a Sarah Palin wink," Ann Romney is "a performer of real talent," and "by far the best way to soften up Romney's image."
2. Chris Christie promotes respect, and himself
If Ann Romney was the "good cop," says Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday's "keynote speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, played the bad cop." He delivered "a red-meat speech for the party faithful," but also hammered the need to tell "hard truths" about America's fiscal situation. Ann Romney preached love, while Christie vowed to "choose respect over love." Christie "did himself a whole lot of good, but maybe not much for Romney," says Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast. He spent the first two-thirds of the speech talking about himself, and then only offered some generic praise for Romney. "It was as though the two had never met." Christie was delivering a "very old school, gritty" message, to a country that needs to hear it, says Lane Filler at Newsday. "I think this speech will grow on people."
3. A handful of mini-stars are born
Christie and Ann Romney were the standouts, but Tuesday was also a night to showcase up-and-coming talent, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. And "of all the men and women touted as rising stars within the GOP who took the stage," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley shone the brightest. "She was poised and relaxed and drew the crowd to their feet" touting her state's voter ID law. "Runner-up for the best performance by a rising star goes to Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz." For my money, says The Washington Post's Rubin, "Democrat-turned-Republican Artur Davis gave the most stirring and poetic address," bashing Obama with "humorous jibes" and "the fervent energy of a convert." I agree, says Newsday's Filler. "Davis may be a rising star in the party, the speaker they've been craving for years."
4. Ron Paul's supporters stage a mini-revolt
When Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Romney's last primary rival and a self-described "undecided" voter, strode onto the floor of Romney's tightly scripted convention, says Jeff Zeleny at The New York Times, the "slow, orderly, and largely symbolic process erupted in anger, presenting a raucous scene that even the most seasoned delegates said they had not seen in decades." The Paulites were furious about the RNC booting some of Maine's Paul delegates, but they lost their fight, says The Washington Post's Cillizza. Still, "optics matter at conventions" and having delegates "chanting 'President Paul' is not exactly a dream scenario for the party big wigs." But no worries, the "Great Ron Paul Revolt" will be forgotten by Wednesday, says Dave Weigel at Slate. Still, between Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Paul, "the convention may be a valuable lesson in Romney's leadership style," says Dana Milbank at The Washington Post. A reputed "control freak," Romney seems to expect whatever crisis — natural or manmade — "to adapt to him." The Paul brigade didn't. If Romney wants to be president, he had better get used to adapting himself.