TAMPA —Now we know why political conventions are scripted.
Mitt Romney delivered a good and personal acceptance speech Thursday night. His campaign produced a sterling video about the candidate. People who know Romney offered testimony about his values, his compassion and his business acumen. But all anyone seemed to be talking about when the convention ended was Clint Eastwood and an empty chair.
The discomfort of Ann Romney, appearing on “CBS This Morning” on Friday, spoke volumes about how the Eastwood moment was received. She tried her best to be positive, but she clearly was surprised by what she had witnessed onstage. As the broadcast networks were opening their prime-time coverage, what Americans saw was not that well-produced video but acelebrated actor talking — sometimes talking trash — to an empty chair that was a proxy for President Obama.
Give the Romney campaign some credit for the week. Most of the convention was smooth and professionally produced. Russ Schriefer, the campaign adviser who oversaw the message operation in Tampa, skillfully repackaged four nights into three after then-Tropical Storm Isaac seemed ready to descend upon the area. The stage was handsome, and multiple high-definition screens behind the speakers added impressively to the program.
But political campaigns operate in a beastly environment, which is one way to describe the insatiable appetite of a political and media world that consumes information and events at a breathtaking pace and stops to focus when something bizarre, unexpected, spectacular or foolish occurs.
So, in the aftermath of an evening that overall accomplished much of what everyone said Romney needed to do with his convention, the beast was focused on Eastwood as much or more than on Romney’s speech or anything else from the show.
The first half of the following MSNBC panel discussion is revealing: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/msnbc/48861690/#48861690