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Politics

Republican convention scored points for Romney, but missed chances

TAMPA, Fla. -- Political analysts will have to wait a few more days – probably until Sunday at the least – to have a good sense of how much of a boost Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign received from his convention, but so far, the assessment has been “good, not great.”

Romney’s speech Thursday night hit several important notes, prominent Republicans here say, but the campaign also missed important opportunities to highlight the warmer, more appealing, side of his personality, shunting potentially powerful moments into portions of the program that were seen by few other than committed party activists.

On the plus side, Romney’s speech included an effective appeal to voters who four years ago sided with then-candidate Barack Obama. Avoiding the harsher rhetoric that some Republicans have used, Romney offered a nod to Obama’s appeal along with a deft argument for casting him aside.

VIDEO: Most aniticipated RNC speeches

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“‘Hope and change’ had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question,” Romney said. “If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”

The speech, along with the one delivered two days earlier by his wife, Ann, gave voters a more sympathetic view of Romney’s character, personality and biography than most of them have seen.

Both also aimed several appeals at women, including Romney’s invocation of his mother, Lenore Romney, asking, “Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?” Romney strategists are acutely aware that they need to narrow Obama’s lead among female voters.

Those appeals almost certainly provided some steps forward for Romney, who has been locked in an extremely close battle with Obama. But strategists were left shaking their heads over the lost moments.

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The most immediate came Thursday night when Romney’s convention organizers decided to put Clint Eastwood on stage in prime time, pushing a carefully crafted biographical video about Romney out of the hour being broadcast on network television. Even if Eastwood had not turned in so unusual a performance, the absence of the video would have been a significant loss for the campaign.

The most powerful statements on Romney’s behalf came even earlier in the evening from two couples whom Romney had helped during family crises. Their accounts of how he had stood with them during the hardest moments of their lives delivered an emotional punch that the convention otherwise lacked. Unfortunately for the campaign, few people outside the convention hall saw them.

Ann Romney offered a polite, but chilly, assessment of that situation this morning in an interview on CBS’ “This Morning.”

“I think it’s important that people do see that side of Mitt,” she said, mentioning the two couples and the video. “I do wish more people had seen those touching moments.”

Her husband, she said, has been reluctant to talk about how he had helped others because “when something is that dear and close to your heart, there’s something that you lose by sharing it or trying to shine a spotlight on you.”

Eastwood is “a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night,” Ann Romney said, adding, “We appreciated Clint’s support, of course, but it’s so hard to really get a sense of who this person is in such a short amount of time.”

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David.Lauter@latimes.com

On Twitter @DavidLauter


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