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5 things we learned at the RNC

  • Dressing like Abe Lincoln is great -- at a political convention
  • The host city didn't live up to its nickname, and that's good
  • Don't leave Clint Eastwood alone with an empty chair
5 things we learned at the RNC

The balloons have fallen. The last motorcade has left. People have returned to tweeting about reality TV. Let's check the big lessons learned from the past week at the Republican National Convention:

1. Many Republicans can't even think about President Obama without making a sour-lemon face.

We tried. We really did. Ever hopeful that that the nasty feelings which divide the parties could be set aside for at least a few moments, we asked multiple GOP delegates to give us three bipartisan (re: non-offensive) words to describe the president. The most common response we got? 15 seconds of face contortions and silence, followed by, "I can't think of any."

Those who did find a few kind words described President Obama with terms like "persistent," "good speaker," and "polished." When we put the question to former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, he gave us: "A. Failed. Non-leader."

Sorry, America. No bipartisan hope here. And yes, next week in Charlotte, we'll ask Democrats to answer the same question about Mitt Romney.

2. If the protesters are any indication, things are going great in America right now.

Gas masks and earth-shaking anthems from angry bands were once convention staples. Furious mobs, riot police -- all that. Then, Tampa and RNC 2012 happened and... silence.

Where were all the protesters this week? Is everyone just suddenly so pleased with the nation that there's nothing to protest? There are plenty of theories, ranging from a lack of outrage among the locals to the high cost of travel for many out-of-town would-be protesters. But all week here, the incident response teams and National Guardsmen and women posted on every corner near the convention site generally had nothing to do.

For once, all the outrage was on display inside a political convention instead of outside.

3. For four days every four years, dressing like Abe Lincoln makes you a rock star.

However, for the other 1,460 days, it’ll just draw a lot of strange looks from people at the supermarket.

Yes, Honest Abe is a convention fave. The U.S. congressional candidate otherwise known as George Engelbach was in serious demand at the RNC. When we went to interview him, there were already two other reporters waiting to stick voice recorders right up against that 1860s chinstrap beard of his. Plus, several delegates were standing at the end of his tail coat waiting for a snapshot.

Even Cindy McCain told us the look-alike Lincoln was her favorite convention costume -- and there were many for the senator’s wife to choose from.

But now, he goes back to Missouri and resumes being the "Lincoln Admirer" (that's what his business card says). He either slips back into relative obscurity or -- Option B -- continues the full-time Abe gig, which is fine at the RNC, but must look really odd when Engelbach is just mowing his lawn.

4. Tampa has its act together

I’ll admit that more than one person told me to “have fun in Trampa” before the RNC. But the host city did a fantastic job of living down that unflattering nickname and expertly pulling off the very complicated task of hosting a political convention.

Security was tight but unobtrusive, the convention area felt safe and was full of friendly volunteers and the rain even stayed away for the most part. Not that city leaders had anything to do with that, but still: Considering the week began with the threat of Hurricane Isaac, the sunny skies we got instead were welcome. 

And Tampa: On behalf of all the visitors, sorry for eating all of your food and drinking all of your coffee. However, it was delicious. 

5. The GOP really wants to shed its “rich, old white guys” image

It’s been said that besides the elephant, the other mascot for the Republican party is the Monopoly man. In an increasingly diverse America, that’s not the kind of impression that’s going to help you stay relevant.

This week, the GOP did its best to shake things up. It gave prime speaking slots to a female governor (Nikki Haley), a Hispanic female governor (Susana Martinez), a Hispanic senator (Marco Rubio) and a female African-American Congressional candidate (Mia Love).

It should be noted the crowd at the convention was not nearly so diverse, but Republicans are certainly trying to change that.

Bonus lesson: ‘Eastwood/Chair 2016’ may be the future of the party

On the convention’s final night, Clint Eastwood stole the show.

This is not necessarily a good thing. Thursday was supposed to belong to Mitt Romney.

But the night’s most talked-about speech belonged to the actor -- and the empty chair to his left. Eastwood ad-libbed his way through remarks filled with dry humor and attacks on the president, which you can either applaud for breaking the convention’s conventions or ridicule for its lack of focus.

By the end of the night, only one of the session’s speeches had spawned its own Twitter parody accounts -- and no, it wasn’t Marco Rubio’s.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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