TAMPA, Fla. — An hour after the balloons and confetti fell, and the Romney and Ryan families left the stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the talk at Google/YG Network’s party at the city art museum was of the Republican nominee speech — and then conversation very quickly turned to Clint.
The focus on Eastwood’s now infamous @InvisibleObama speech is earning such outsized attention because so much of the rest of the convention seemed so carefully planned. It seemed so out of the ordinary not just for Eastwood, but for the Romney team, which up until now showed little indication that they even cared about Hollywood, and judging by Ann Romney’s comments this morning, they won’t be reaching out again any time soon. All I can think is that they just got star struck. Whenever there is an attack on Hollywood and its righteous liberals, they will always be able to say that at least they aren’t speaking to an empty chair.
What was also surprising is that Eastwood came across as much more of a partisan that he probably really is, as he diverges with the GOP on a lot of social issues, and even criticized President Obama for not pulling troops out of Afghanistan quickly enough. He seemed to be making the case for why the audience should be listening to him, noting that Hollywood wasn’t all just liberals, but said relatively little about Romney. He made fun of Oprah, but she had a different way of campaigning for Obama: Praise the candidate, but end it there.
The Republican delegates and Romney supporters I talked to liked Clint — when he acted liked Clint, and not a comedian. “I liked it better when he came to the message at the end,” said Phil Gramm, the former senator from Texas. “I didn’t like so much the parody part.” One observer at the Google party compared it to the time that Sammy Davis Jr. gave Richard Nixon a bear hug — too much when a few words would have sufficed.
I don’t believe all of the analysis that this hurt Romney, or even hurt Eastwood. As quickly as this became a social media frenzy, the trending topics will move on to something else. The campaign goes on, and Eastwood, at 82 and still making good movies, will just do his own thing. But it will be a long time before a political operation lets a star surrogate go onstage without a script.
Update: The reaction was fast and furious, but my favorite comes from @BobNewhart. “I heard that Clint Eastwood was channeling me at the RNC. My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit… #RNC #ClintEastwood #rnc2012 #GOP2012″