As you watch the 2012 Republican National Convention on Fox News Channel this week here is a tip sheet to alert you to ‘Don’t Miss’ speeches and power plays behind the scenes that will be evident if you look behind the pretty sets and soaring speeches.
Obviously the most important speech is Mitt Romney’s on Thursday night. He has to lay out strong ideas that support the argument that he knows how to fix the economy.
Now for the not so obvious:
First, pay careful attention to faces you don’t see.
That list begins with former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Tea Party fans also will be searching to find any mention of 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Also missing from the big party are former GOP primary candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Rick Perry. Romney’s team made a decision to exclude these right-wing stalwarts from the program for fear that they would alienate the moderate voters.
So, now let’s tune into the GOP’s “Must-See TV,” critical speeches for you to see to judge the success of the convention.
On Tuesday night the convention belongs to Ann Romney.
Romney’s wife of 43 years has been described as his “secret weapon.”
After a testy interview with NBC News over the family tax returns last month, Mrs. Romney will try to humanize her husband who many voters still perceive as cold, aloof and unfeeling. Mrs. Romney’s main appeal will be to women voters who according to the NBC/WSJ poll favor President Obama, 51 percent to 41 percent. Another CNN poll found that 60 percent of likely voters say Obama is “more in touch with women voters” compared to 31 percent who say the same about Romney. Her job will be to help her husband narrow the gender gap.
Even before she speaks, watch how Mrs. Romney is introduced. Expect the focus to be on her 5 sons and 18 grandchildren to create the image of a warm, stable family behind the man of the house.
Mrs. Romney is competing with first lady Michelle Obama who still enjoys a 66 percent favorability rating according to a May Gallup poll.
Tuesday’s second most important speaker is Rick Santorum.
Romney’s main rival in the GOP primary had previously called him a “liar,” the “ultimate flip flopper” and the “worst Republican in the Country to run against President Obama.” The former Pennsylvania Senator has earned a following of hard-line social conservatives for his stance against abortion and gay marriage. These voters have been skeptical of Romney and he is asking Santorum to vouch for him with them as best he can.
The Tea Party base backed Santorum in this year’s GOP primaries even when it was apparent that Romney had enough delegates to capture the nomination. Santorum has to win over skeptical voters for Romney and remind them to turn out in a big way on Election Day. But if he is too “hot” it could be a turn-off to voters who are middle of the road types.
Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, will be competing with Santorum for raising the convention roof with passion.
If Romney loses in November the battle between Christie and Santorum is a fight to control the future of the party with Christie representing the establishment wing and Santorum the Tea Party wing.
But don’t forget, the third player for the 2016 GOP nomination is obviously Paul Ryan. He will have to be self-effacing in his speech at the convention but if he does a good job he will help his prospects for the future.
And finally on Tuesday, look for the convention to play racial politics. Two speakers will be responsible for presenting a racially diverse image for a party that is low on Hispanics, blacks and Asians as it runs against the nation’s first non-white president.
That effort begins with Artur Davis, the former African American Congressman from Alabama shocked the political world earlier this year by announcing that he was leaving the Democratic Party and joining the GOP. Just four years ago, Davis officially seconded Barack Obama’s nomination at the Democratic Convention. Davis can help the GOP make the case to swing voters that they need not worry about voting against the first black president.
Helping Davis with this tricky job is Mia Love, a Mormon congressional candidate from Utah. This daughter of Haitian immigrants provides a female black face for conservatism. The GOP wants to use Love to show that it is not just the party of older, white men. Can she do it?
On Wednesday look for one speech.
With President Obama having killed Osama bin Laden the Republicans have lost their edge on national security.
The key to regaining that edge will come from former Secretary of State Condi Rice’s speech.
The only down-side is that her very presence on the stage will remind voters of Bush administration policies, particularly the Iraq War, that they grew to dislike and distrust. Can Rice, who is personally popular, reverse that dynamic?
On Thursday look for Romney but he is not the whole story. This is the heart of the convention from beginning to end and the young, bright face to watch carefully is Marco Rubio.
The son of Cuban exiles, Rubio’s speech is the GOP’s best chance to convince Hispanic voters that they are welcome in their party. Romney’s pledge to veto the DREAM Act and model national immigration law after Arizona’s “papers please” law means Rubio will have his work cut out for him. An NBC//WSJ/Telemundo poll found Latino voters supporting Obama over Romney, 63 percent to 28 percent. Romney campaign strategists have said publicly their goal is to top McCain’s 2008 share of 31 percent of the Latino vote. The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio just might help them to close the gap and reach that seemingly elusive goal.
He will get help from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who is also speaking. He is working hard to get the party to tone down its anti-immigrant attitude.
With this crib sheet you’ll have X-ray vision to see the real bones behind the pretty faces at the convention.
Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace and Special Report with Bret Baier. Williams joined the network as a contributor in 1997.