Conventional Wisdom

This week, the president will finally know who he will be running against in the general election… officially, at least. It has been months since Mitt Romney safely clinched the GOP nomination by winning more than half of the allotted Republican National Convention delegates in the primaries, but now the Party gets to sign on the dotted line. While there were initially fears that Ron Paul supporters would stage a libertarian uprising at the Convention by forcing a second ballot free-for-all vote, it is now safely assumed that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be nominated for president and vice-president, respectively.

Ron Paul ended up getting more delegates than he rightfully deserves (in other words, the share of delegates he received from certain states was disproportionate to the share of the primary/caucus vote he received) by taking advantage of the state GOP conventions that select the delegates for the RNC. Due to Paul’s actions, the GOP has realized that the state convention-based approach, though it may encourage local engagement in the national Party, can lead to a serious disconnect between the will of the voting Party members and the actual selection of the nominee (considering the headache it has caused the GOP, the process will likely be amended for future elections). Since Paul refused to fully endorse Romney, he has been denied a speaking slot at the Convention; perhaps a harsh move, but one that is understandable considering that the GOP needs to present a solidly unified front for Romney at this sure-to-be-highly-watched Convention (having Paul stand up and criticize Romney and the GOP at large in front of a national audience would be a disaster). Paul should be commended for his ideological integrity, but perhaps his decades of being a Libertarian dressed in Republican clothes have finally caught up to him. Frankly, a man who supports, among many other things, legalizing heroin, has no place in the socially (at the minimum) moderate Republican Party.

While it was feared that Hurricane Isaac might ruin the GOP’s best laid plans, a slight schedule shuffling was all that was necessary; also, while it may sound macabre, the storm brought extra media attention to the Convention and may scare away anarchist protesters. In the eyes of the GOP leadership, the official nomination vote is merely ceremonial – the primary goal of the Convention is to define Mitt Romney for the American people. Through speeches from rising GOP stars like Marco Rubio and Romney’s wife Ann, the GOP hopes to reset the public’s perception of Romney (which has been colored by negative attacks on his personal history and wealth); as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus puts it, the Convention will try to show America “the story about a man who is decent and honorable, gave away his father’s inheritance, started something from nothing and created a great business, saved the Olympics, governed in a difficult state as a Republican and was very successful.” However, the Convention will also seek to redefine the Republican Party, and much of this mission falls to the keynote speaker – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie has become a star of the GOP and represents the direction in which the Party is trying to move: focusing primarily on fiscal conservatism while being more open to social moderates. While it is unlikely that Christie’s (political) weight can turn New Jersey red for Romney, being the keynote speaker virtually guarantees that he will run for President in an eventual election cycle (remember that it was Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address that propelled him to national recognition). While the GOP is looking ahead to the future, the priority is still having Romney replace Obama, and so every Convention speech (even Christie’s) will be about Romney, Romney, Romney. The Republican Party will show America its patriotic and conservative spirit – spirit that not even a hurricane can dampen.