Romney & the ‘Optics’ of Grand (Very) Old Party

Romney_lowry

Well, that certainly was a Grand Old Party — as in, like, 60 and older, in keeping with the Florida setting.

Mitt Romney gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, and I’ll leave the politics and fact-checking to others. My only political point would be however much heat surrounded other speakers, in terms of the 2012 election the only speech that really mattered this week was Romney’s, just as the same will be true next week for President Obama.

What interested me more, from a TV standpoint, were the visuals of the convention’s big night — the “optics,” to use an increasingly popular term, and the style as opposed to the substance.

In terms of delivery, Romney almost consciously seemed to be channeling Ronald Reagan — down to his mannerisms and expressions. Since the intent is to paint Barack Obama as the second coming of Jimmy Carter, that perhaps makes sense in more ways than one.

After that, there were problems. The candidate made perhaps the longest walk to the podium — through a gantlet of admirers and well-wishers — since the pre-fight sequence in “Rocky.” While it sought to create the impression the crowd was with him, it felt self-indulgent and wearying.

Almost more significant than Romney, though, was the crowd itself. Forget its homogeneity — the fact the convention hall seemed to be overwhelmingly populated by older white people, despite the party’s outreach efforts.

More than anything, the crowd seemed much more eager, more enthusiastic, about booing the current President than anything Romney had to say about becoming the next one. Even through the TV, the anger sounded palpable, and I suspect to some of those precious swing voters, a little unnerving. These were people who clearly know what they’re against, yet who sounded considerably fuzzier about what they’re for.

Finally, there was the little matter of Clint Eastwood speaking, which proves that Republicans think Hollywood is full of out-of-touch elitists, unless of course they’re conservatives, in which case, how ’bout a few minutes in primetime?

Eastwood was folksy, certainly, but too much so — rambling, riffing, tossing off jabs at President Obama, but with precious little to say in support of the GOP ticket. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell called the appearance “exceedingly strange,” and one could tell she was straining to be polite. Who knew Dirty Harry had a burning desire to do improv?

On the plus side, Clint didn’t seem angry, just disappointed.

In terms of the mood in the room, the movie world’s quiet loner was once again going it alone.

 

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