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Ryan's Radical Vision, Eastwood's Empty Chair, a Huge Donor's "Nightmare": Dispatches From #GOP2012

MoJo sent five reporters to the Republican convention in Tampa. Here's what they saw and heard.

| Mon Aug. 27, 2012 7:35 PM EDT

Romney's Speech: The Softer Side of a Hard-Right Campaign

David Corn

With the Republican convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney has launched the most ideological presidential campaign in recent history. At issue is not merely the current state of the economy and Romney's ability to become the CEO-in-chief and perform a turnaround. Romney is waging a battle for the opportunity to conduct a conservative social experiment that would remake fundamentals of American society. But he neglected to mention that Thursday night during his climactic—though hardly soaring—acceptance speech.

The previous evening, his veep pick Paul Ryan, when he wasn't tossing out profoundly false talking points, married two ideas together: The first is that Romney is a successful businessman who can revive the flagging economy and return the nation to greatness. The second is that voters are now living in an American gulag, where basic freedoms have been destroyed and sanctimonious central planners dictate citizens' lives, smother initiative, and doom everyone to a life of entitlements and control. The first of these notions is upbeat and hopeful, addressing the immediate concerns of voters confronting economic challenges: Romney, the guy who looks like a president from central casting, is galloping in on a white horse to rescue you. The other is gloomy and of more concern to the arch-libertarians of the tea party and conservative movement: We are living in a place akin to the former East Germany and must break free of the chains.

[Read more]

VIDEO: Clint Eastwood's Bizarre "Empty Chair Obama" Speech at the GOP Convention (With Full Transcript)

Andy Kroll

On Thursday night, Clint Eastwood, the Academy Award-winning actor, director, and screenwriter, delivered one of the most bizarre political convention speeches in American history.

Speaking without prepared remarks, Eastwood carried on an imaginary conversation with an invisible President Obama seated in a chair next to him on the convention stage. I can't even begin to try to summarize Eastwood's rambling address to a bewildered audience and press corps. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, looked less than pleased with Eastwood's speech. And the Hollywood star's invisible Obama skit quickly spawned its own Twitter feed—@InvisibleObama—and a satirical 2012 presidential bid. As well as #eastwooding.

Behold, Eastwood/Chair 2012:

Twitter user @zdrobertsTwitter user @zdroberts

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Corn on "Hardball": Was Clint Eastwood's Speech Political Comedy?

David Corn and Comedy Central's Jared Logan and Mary Phillips-Sandy joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to parse the bizareness that was Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican national convention.


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Inside the RNC's Poshest Pit Stop: The Adelson Lounge

Tim Murphy

For campaign-trail veterans, one of the most important things at every convention—along with booze—is figuring out which pop-up lounges you should hit up to charge your batteries, swill some coffee, and grab a (preferably free) bite. Huffington Post has the "Oasis," featuring unpaid massage therapists. CNG, the natural gas giant, has sofas and cafe con leche at the press filing center. Google's lounge, replete with wireless and a gratis coffee bar, has basically been MoJo's Tampa bureau for the last five days. But the award for Most Posh Convention Hotspot of 2012 has to go to the Miriam Adelson Young Guns Pavilion, named for one half of the GOP's dark money power couple and sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Young Guns Action Fund. (It is probably not a coincidence that the Adelsons gave YGAF $5 million this year.)

As you can see, it's really pink. When I stopped by on Tuesday, volunteers walked through the seating area offering everyone (almost everyone) free hair and makeup. The WiFi is free, the air extra-cool, and the "Woman Up-Tinis" are made special to order. Here's a quick tour:

The Adelson bar.The bar.Up-TiniLady Lemonade.[Read more]

GOP Megadonor Foster Friess on RNC: "This Is a Nightmare For Me"

Tim Murphy

When Foster Friess began to cry, Condoleezza Rice was in the last throes of her speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday. The trigger was a tale about her childhood in segregated Alabama. "You might not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your response to your circumstances," he told me a few minutes later. "I love it."

The GOP convention has been a magnet for the conservative megadonors—David Koch (an at-large delegate representing New York), Harold Hamm, Sheldon Adelson—who have helped redefine the campaign finance landscape in the 2012 cycle. But Friess, the Wyoming investor who last spring almost single-handedly kept Rick Santorum's presidential campaign alive with $1.7 million in super-PAC donations, was ready to go home.

"This is a nightmare for me," he said when I spotted him standing alone against a wall on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "It's too many things going on. I've got like four things to go to. It's just so frustrating." And while he loved Rice's address, he was not sure how much more RNC speechifying he could take. "I've had enough speeches!"

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