Last week the US Republican Party held its presidential nominating convention in Tampa, Florida. This week the Democrats do their thing in Charlottesville, North Carolina.
These conventions are not as fun and controversial as they used to be. Look on You Tube and there are excerpts from Democratic and Republican conventions of the past. They used to include real debates with real people not talking from teleprompters. Now they are just stage managed events designed for television audiences whose attention spans can't last beyond the main acceptance speeches. One boring speech can send millions of remote controls into action in an instant, not just in the US, but around the world.
In Tampa this week, Mitt Romney had to impress his troops. He really had to as some delegates were lukewarm towards him. The Grand Old Party (GOP) challenger came across as stiff and boring while his vice presidential pick Paul Ryan came across as more vibrant and alive. Therefore, most of the delegates (with many from the rabidly right-wing Tea Party) were more enthused about Ryan than Romney.
Their appearances led me to think something - given the lukewarmness of many Republicans towards a so-called moderate like Romney, would they accept someone just as supposedly moderately conservative as New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key as their nominee? Probably not.
Yet, Romney could still end up as the next US president given the GOP's determination to outspend their Democrat rivals and manipulate the electoral system in states where they have control to give them the election. Moreover, given the US's stagnant economy, millions of swing voters could be tempted to switch sides despite (as the polls say) many considering President Barack Obama to be more likable than his Republican challenger. Due to the above factors and as the polls are so close, another 2000 George W. Bush-style close win could be in prospect. For those of my left-wing fellow travellers who don't believe in such a prospect, bear this in mind - Romney recorded a slight post-convention bounce in the polls meaning this election is not in the bag for Obama by any stretch.
And Romney's, albeit small, bounce is amazing given the GOP's poor decision to add Mister Make My Day himself, Clint Eastwood, to the primetime speaking roster. Eastwood's performance in talking to an empty chair occupied (supposedly) by President Obama was a big mistake. Unmistakably, he was a great actor in his day but now it appears that age is sadly catching up with him. His long ranting monologue proved both sad and ineffective. The Republican campaign aide who suggested that idea might have been sacked by now. No political party should allow side shows like that when they are trying to impress the voters.
This week should see the Democrats formally nominate Barack Obama for a second term at their convention. Hopefully, they won't be adding any surprise speakers to their line up. At least they have been honest in stating that former president Bill Clinton will be giving the keynote address on Thursday as the warm up to Obama's big night on Friday. No doubt, Clinton's addition will please ardent Democrats while angering Republicans who think he should still be lingering in jail over Lewinskygate. Another point to note too is that the Democrats are keen to wheel out Clinton as a successful two term president while the Republicans weren't keen to let their own most recent two termer, George W. Bush speak at their convention. That tells me many things, not least that the Republicans realise that Dubya had very low approval ratings when he left office. By contrast, Clinton (scandals aside) had higher approval ratings thanks to a then booming economy which Bush began to stuff up.
That's why Democratic strategists are hoping that Clinton's presence will bolster Obama. Clearly, the president has been faltering in the polls due to the anaemic US economy. The chief executive has to convince undecided voters that he's trying to do his best with the economy while outlining his achievements that include health care reform. For these reasons, I think that Obama win the style debate but he has to be aware that he could lose the more important one on policy substance to Romney if he isn't careful.
This makes both of these major convention weeks the most important in the US campaign. Whether we like it or not, the US election result will impact on those of us who live outside America's shores. That's why I don't want to see Mitt Romney elected as that would usher in what would effectively be a Bush III presidency, this time without a Bush anywhere in sight. And that would be the worst prospect to face in what is already an unstable world.
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