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Did a rambling Clint Eastwood ruin Mitt Romney's big night?

The GOP learns the hard way that an empty chair, an imaginary President Obama, and an octogenarian Hollywood star may be a recipe for disaster

The final night of the Republican National Convention was meant to be a coronation of Mitt Romney, who fulfilled a years-long ambition by accepting his party's nomination for president. But the talk Friday morning isn't all about Romney or his speech, which for the most part was considered a safe and solid effort. Instead, the dominant story is about Clint Eastwood, the much-vaunted "mystery speaker" that Team Romney teased the press with for days. Before Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivered a widely admired address introducing Romney on Thursday night, Eastwood offered a rambling, incoherent speech in which he spoke to an empty chair that was meant to represent an imaginary President Obama. (Watch a video of the speech below.) The 82-year-old actor lurched from one topic to the next — the economy, the war in Afghanistan, and the military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At one point he apparently imagined Obama telling Romney to go [expletive] himself. ("What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney?" Eastwood asked. "I can't tell him that," he responded to his own question. "He can't do that to himself.") The speech was almost universally panned. Did it ruin Romney's convention?

Yes. Romney was totally upstaged: "There's an old adage in Hollywood: Never share the screen with dogs or children — you'll get upstaged," says John Cassidy at The New Yorker. "After last night's bizarro performance by Clint Eastwood…doddering old men should be added to the list." Romney gave a "pretty good speech," but "Twitter and the rest of the web was still abuzz with Clint" when Romney was speaking. Unfortunately for Mitt, "the only thing that most people will remember about [the convention] is the jarring picture of a frail-looking American screen legend, his hair askew, standing and talking in a halting voice to an empty chair."
"Raving Clint spoils Romney's big night"

But the Tampa crowd loved Clint: Eastwood's stunt, which will go down "as the strangest televised moment in convention history," left viewers at home "slack-jawed," says Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times. But the audience at the Tampa Bay Times Forum "went wild." Indeed, "from the loud and adoring reaction of the crowd, one sensed that if he had asked the delegates to switch their votes, Eastwood would be the Republican nominee today." Poor Mitt Romney: After years of campaigning he is "finally the Republican presidential nominee, but the man everyone's talking about is Clint Eastwood — who has apparently lost his mind."
"Clint Eastwood and his imaginary non-friend at the convention"

Come on. Let's focus on what matters: It's baffling that "such a carefully run campaign chose to" let Eastwood ramble without a script "as millions of people waited for Mitt Romney's speech," says Byron York at The Washington Examiner. But let's not forget that Romney's speech "was solid and well delivered," and that "the most affecting moments" of the convention happened long before Eastwood took the stage. "The Romney campaign put together an extended narrative of Romney's life," filled with details about his work, family, and faith, and that shouldn't be forgotten amidst the brouhaha over Eastwood.
"The most extraordinary story of the GOP convention"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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