RNC Report Card: The Speeches, the Sound Bytes and the Strategy for this Week’s DNC
Looking Back at the Speeches of the RNC as Romney Looks Ahead to Battle with Obama
Grading the RNC Speeches
By Mike Bako, Marketing Manager, DS Simon Productions
Before and after Clint Eastwood turned the Republican National Convention into comedic red meat for every late night host and social media user there were important speeches delivered and yet to be delivered to the attendees and audience watching at home.
On the first night of the convention those listening got the Republican version of a both ends of the speech spectrum. First up was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s rambling, self-serving speech that did not mention Mitt Romney for the first 16 minutes. Christie’s performance was pure Chris Christie. He was charismatic, engaging, firey, and a bully. All things that we have come to expect from Chris Christie but not things that we would expect from a speech with the national spotlight on to kick off the convention.
From an overall performance perspective Christie is able to speak to a large audience like few politicians can. His ability to hold the attention of a large group of people comes from the fact that he knows how to create a narrative when he is speaking and is great at using stories. He is at home speaking to large crowds and in front of TV cameras so even when he is using a teleprompter or note cards he is so comfortable with his environment and so well rehearsed that it does not come off as unnatural.
I would give Christie a B+ for his speech and delivery but a C for his ability to actually make the case for a Romney/Ryan ticket.
Ann Romney’s full introduction onto the national stage could not have gone any better. She fully made the case for herself as someone who could fill the role of first lady and be a representative of the United States to foreign dignitaries and at events. It is still hard for Mitt Romney to fully connect with the audience that he is speaking to but that was not an issue for Ann. She was able to use humor, emotion, and the telling of her own personal story and struggles to put a human face on someone who could become the first lady. She was also able to shine a light on her marriage to Mitt in a way that pulled back a layer of mystery that has surrounded Mitt Romney for so long.
She gets a solid A for her speech and extra credit for helping to humanize Mitt Romney in the process.
Some of Paul Ryan’s thunder was stolen by a speech that was not intended to be shown in primetime but bled over into the national coverage. Condoleeza Rice’s speech was a master class in delivering a speech and engaging your audience. He ability to deliver her speech, without a teleprompter, and to connect on such an emotional level put her in the class of Bill Clinton as far as skill as a communicator is concerned. Republicans might have wondered if the start of her speech was more of an endorsement of President Obama than of Mitt Romney but one could almost look at her speech as an apolitical call to action for the American dream rather than for her making the case for one candidate over the other.
Her A+ grade does not do justice to how well-crafted her speech was and how seamlessly she delivered it.
Later in the night Paul Ryan took the stage and had a rough start. For the first ten minutes or so of his speech he was able to deliver his lines and wait for the applause points just fine but I could not get over the fact that he was very robotic and a slave to the teleprompter. His obvious, wind shield wiper manner of staring to the left for a moment and then center and then right (repeat) made him come across as nervous and stiff.
If you have ever seen Ryan on a Sunday morning talk show debating issues you know that he is great at thinking on his feet and for his ability to make boring policy facts comes alive. So it was disappointing to see him start off his speech like this. His overall grade and performance rebounded as he became more comfortable and started to build up momentum as he got into the meat and potatoes of making the case against Obama and for a Romney/Ryan ticket. This is where Ryan is at his best, when he is in attack mode. He does attack mode better than most politicians because he does not just rely on raising his voice or yelling above the cheers to make his point, he has a great ability to build momentum with what he is saying and to take the audience along for the ride.
Ryan’s grade from a performance standpoint would have been higher but the lack of controlling the post speech message when it comes to the fact checking element of his speech has to be taken into consideration. While the audience in the arena and at home ate up his every word and claim the social media and traditional media world immediately went to work fact checking his speech and that became just as much of a story as his actual speech.
A solid B grade for Paul Ryan.
As much as the Romney campaign wishes that it was not the case, it is very hard not to look at the Clint Eastwood and Mitt Romney speeches through the same grading prism. Romney was able to deliver the speech of his life and yet, all anyone wanted to talk about the next day was the bizarre speech that was delivered by Clint Eastwood. The convention organizers have to get an F for allowing Eastwood to go so far off script and become the main story at a time when all eyes should have been on their nominee.
There is not much left to say on Eastwood’s performance other than it will go down as the benchmark for all future odd speeches at political events and awards shows. The one redeeming factor in his favor is that he so lived up to what the caricature of what the typical Clint Eastwood character is that his speech actually played well to the people in attendance and those supporters watching at home. The only problem is that they are not the only ones who will be doing the voting or creating the narrative around the nights events like the media ended up doing.
For his role in robbing Mitt Romney of coverage, making himself the main story of the night and for delivering a bizarre speech the only grade that I could give Clint Eastwood is a D.
Mitt Romney finally delivered the speech that so many people were waiting for. This was the first time that we were able to hear stories from his life that helped shape him in becoming the person that he is today. He did an excellent job, through stories and humor, of giving the American public into his religious beliefs, past business efforts, and into his political beliefs. If you are not a political junkie the only thing that you may have known about Mitt Romney’s background is that he is a Mormon and is a millionaire many times over. After his speech you were able to get insight into how he was brought up, how he decided to raise his family, and what the guiding principals are for him when it comes to business and how he would run the country.
There were still times when he was not able to escape the John Kerry-ish moments of forced casualness that do not play well for him, but from an overall grading standpoint you have to give him high marks for channeling a more conversational tone and leaving behind some of the stiffness and formality that plagued him in the past.
Overall grade of an A for Romney.
Will the Democrats Do a Better Job of Having Their Speakers Stay On Message Than the Republicans Did During Their Convention?