If there is a bedrock of conventional wisdom in presidential politics, it is this: First, succeed in the primaries by winning over the base, and then move to the center in the general election to court independent and middle-of-the-road voters. So where is Mitt Romney's pivot to the center?
Throughout his political career, Romney has demonstrated a high degree of flexibility. But he has yet to employ those skills as the final stage of this presidential slog begins. And with Rep. Paul Ryan's fiery speech at the GOP convention on Wednesday night, it was clear that Romney did not pick Ryan to appeal to the undecideds in the middle. The speech was an indication that the Romney crew has gone rogue—or completely tea party.
Speaking with poise and brimming with cocky confidence, Ryan took the predictable shots, deriding the stimulus and Obamacare. He devoted a long riff to the unfounded Romney charge that President Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare. He blasted Obama for not being serious about deficit reduction, going as far as to chide Obama for not fully embracing the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that Ryan and other Republicans refused to support (because it called for modest tax hikes on the well-to-do). Before the pumped-up crowd of GOP delegates, Ryan blamed the closure of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, on Obama's policies—though the factory was shuttered before Obama became president. He did not refer to the successful auto industry bailout.
On Medicare, Ryan repeated the familiar GOP whine that Democrats are demagogues when they assail Ryan's budget plan for ending the Medicare guarantee. "We want this debate," he proclaimed. "We will win this debate."
Via Dave WeigelDavid Koch, one-half of the hugely influential Koch brothers duo, was not hard to miss on the floor of the Republican National Convention. A former collegiate basketball player at M.I.T., Koch stands six-foot-five, a giant among the party faithful. He looks identical in person to the hundreds of photos of him just a Google search away. Koch is one of New York's 95 delegates, all Romney supporters, and his presence here at the GOP convention has caused a stir. Koch's private dinner with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) on Monday night ended up plastered all over Twitter, breeding rumors and speculation about who else dined with the man the liberal blogosphere loves to hate.
Koch—who with his brother, Charles, and their extensive donor network, reportedly plans to direct some $400 million toward defeating President Obama in November—doesn't want the attention, and has tried to maintain a low profile in Tampa. I spotted him Tuesday afternoon on the convention floor looming over the rest of the crowd. He wore a navy suit, red-and-blue checkered tie, and a couple of fancy-looking convention passes sure to open doors that we reporters couldn't dream of entering. I chatted with Koch's three aides, and their messages were the same: No interviews, please. Mr. Koch wants to blend in, be just another delegate. One aide handed me and a few other reporters a printed-out statement with Koch Industries' logo. Here's what it said:
I'm deeply honored and humbled to be chosen as one of 95 delegates representing the great state of New York at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Americans, we all have a role to play in the Democratic process. From learning about the issues to participating in campaigns and voting, this is an opportunity—and a right—to help chart the course of the nation.
The 2012 may be the most important of our lifetimes. Profoundly different political philosophies are competing for our hearts and minds—and our votes. I have made no secret about which philosophy I support—the one that provides the greatest economic and personal freedom possible.
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Tuesday, Aug. 28, 3:00 pm EDT: The floor convention is underway, and our tweeting team has spotted some trends.
Mitt Romney says Tuesday night's all right for fightin':
Some GOP top dogs seem a little behind the times:
And the Republican party is trying to make lemonade out of its talking points:
That line of attack isn't especially new:
Nor, apparently, is it popular:
Tweets from Day Two of the convention: