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Three thoughts on the speeches of the RNC

1. The most talked about speech of the convention was the one in which a disheveled Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair. This means bad things for Republicans and worse things for Americans.

2. Marco Rubio's speech was the best of the week. It wasn't even close. Politico compiled five good lines but didn't pick what was my favorite part:

My Dad used to tell us: "En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos" "In this country, you will be able to accomplish all the things we never could."
 
A few years ago during a speech, I noticed a bartender behind a portable bar at the back of the ballroom. I remembered my father who had worked for many years as a banquet bartender.
 
He was grateful for the work he had, but that's not the life he wanted for us.
 
He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.

I would've snipped that last "of a room" and ended on "front." Better period punch. Still, though, I was listening standing up in the lower level of the Forum, and when he said that my eyes got wet. It was the only time that happened all week.

3. Which is disappointing. What happened to speeches? Eastwood's speech was exceptional because it was so regrettable and Rubio's speech was exceptional because it was ... good. The rest were awful. Worse than silence. They said nothing and said it poorly.

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And they're gone

Snapped by Trip Gabriel of the New York Times.

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In defense of Tampa

Scott Finn of WUSF:

I find it strange that so many reporters were putting us down, because Tampa and the surrounding area, Hillsborough County, looks more like America than perhaps anywhere else.

Definitely. You can say the same thing, too, about Florida as a whole. Make fun of us and you make fun of ALL of us. The Gift of Florida: What happens in Florida is that all of what is up there somehow ends up down here, and so it's the most interstate, real estate, dredge-and-fill, boom-and-bust hothouse manifestation of the lying, climate-controlled moment when everybody in this country thought they could have it all, forever and ever. Florida is not some funhouse mirror. It is a vivid reflection. To mock is too easy.

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So what did people think?

Some of the delegates:

"Oh my God, we loved it," Massachusetts alternate delegate Barbara McCoy, 60, said.

"Tampa is beautiful. But with all the police and barricades and security, it also felt like it was an occupied country," said Chris Heimburger, 56, from Houston.

"It's a sight I don't want to see in America," said Scott MacDonald, 40, an alternate delegate from Massachusetts. "They could have toned it down. Some security is a reasonable thing, but so is dissent, so is protest. ... We should support that, not squelch it."

"I don't know why they had the two-bus system," complained Mike Bergsma, 58, a geophysicist and alternate delegate from Corpus Christi, Texas.

"It's beautiful. I'm coming back for sure," said Sheila Palandjian, who attended the convention from Belmont, Mass.

City bigs: "I think we have set the standard for how these events should run," mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "I think the preparation that went into this and the discipline with which it was executed — from the police officer on the street, to the solid waste crews, to the parking folks, to the volunteers — it was flawless." RNC by the numbers. Worth the watch.

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Last night in Tampa

Politico's Maggie Haberman: The speech was largely an expanded version of his stump address, but it was well-written, and well-delivered. He performed as well as he has this cycle. Even Romney’s detractors in the party said they thought he turned in a strong enough performance to help himself with voters just tuning in, and those beyond the GOP base. The nominee talked about his father in familiar terms to those who’ve watched his speeches, but with genuine emotion, his voice catching at times. The Tampa Bay Times' PolitiFact checked him.

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Plenty to discuss postmortem

Totally agree here with the Times' Tom Jones:

1. But when it comes to political conventions, all the cities run together. They all look the same. To the average viewer watching at home, especially those not associated with this area, Tampa might as well have been Charlotte, N.C., or Atlanta or Memphis or St. Louis.

2. Viewers never learned about our traditions and culture — from Cuban sandwiches to cigars to our beaches.

3. We even got shortchanged by Jon Stewart. I was so looking forward to seeing Tampa skewered by the brilliant Daily Show host and all we got were the same old cliches about humidity, strippers and roaches. Really, Jon?

So much talk in the months leading up to the convention about the "priceless" value of exposure. So dubious. A temporal boost at best. The city is just backdrop. It's green screen.

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This morning in the Tampa Bay Times

Alex Leary on the Romney speech:

He comforted dying children. He saved struggling businesses. He stood by his wife as she suffered from multiple sclerosis.

Willard Mitt Romney, 65, used the climactic moment of the Republican National Convention Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to present a fuller self-portrait while trying to harness disappointment with President Barack Obama.

It has been 5½ years since Romney officially began running for president, but in many respects, it was the first time he introduced himself to Americans, giving a well-received speech after a three-day convention designed to rally the Republican base.

Adam Smith: What's striking at the end of a Republican National Convention that devoted so much time stressing the GOP's willingness to make tough, bold decisions and to lead instead of pander, is how cautious it all seemed.

Times editorial:

Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for president Thursday night and offered one concrete reason that he should be elected: He's not President Barack Obama. The former Massachusetts governor played on fears about the weak economy, characterized Obama as a failure who cannot lead the nation to prosperity and argued he has the business experience to create millions of jobs. It was a credible performance that ended a perfunctory Republican National Convention, but Romney's broad promises remain vague and unconvincing.

Marc Caputo on Marco Rubio: Marco Rubio introduced the leader of his party to the nation Thursday night, but judging by the roar of the crowd, some initially wished it was the other way around at the Republican National Convention. And Steve Bousquet on what Jeb Bush said. Chris Christie gave a great speech on Thursday. But it didn't happen on TV so it's like it didn't happen at all. Tampa's TV time? Shoulder shrug. This is expensive for cities, and for delegates, too.

John Romano: For those of you who live and work outside of downtown Tampa, the RNC was probably no more than a blip. It didn't attract many celebrities, it didn't produce must-see public events and, unless you own a hotel, it probably didn't put money in your pocket.

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After comes quick

Red, white and blue balloons fell to the floor in the Forum, then popped. Outside, the clanging of the dismantling of the fencing around the city, already. From horses and people the air smelled like waste. A fat cockroach scooted across the bricks near the corner of Franklin and Zack. The low steady hum of a street lamp above. A man slept on the sidewalk across from the public library and in front of a bus stop. Tampa will be Tampa in the morning.

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What do they want?

That list by the Times' Adam Smith of the winners and losers of the RNC? I'd add to the losers the protesters. "They seem to have a hard time making up their minds," Tampa police chief Jane Castor said tonight.

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The tunnel tonight

Tuesday night. Wednesday night.

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Just one man's opinion

But the best speech of the week here in Tampa? Marco Rubio. Not even close.

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Meanwhile, outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum ...

The Tampa Bay Times' Shelley Rossetter is on the streets. Facing off very quietly. "We would like our right to be at this convention. I'm willing to be here all night." Not happening, police are telling the protesters, according to the Times' John Woodrow Cox. "We're not done yet," one of the protesters says. Jamal Thalji is out there too.

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Who's Mitt Romney?

Barton Gellman in this week's Time: Twelve times in No Apology, he embraces "creative destruction," a phrase coined by the economist Joseph Schumpeter to make the case for discarding unproductive jobs and businesses in order to free up capital for innovation. "Creative destruction is unquestionably stressful -- on workers, managers, owners, bankers, suppliers, customers and the communities that surround the affected businesses," Romney writes. "The pressures these groups put on political leaders to block game-changing innovations can be intense."

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Not just a storm story

"I'm an independent, and I believe in some of the Republican values," a man in Isaac-flooded Slidell, La., told the Tampa Bay Times' Ben Montgomery today. "But by nature, with a smaller federal government you'd need a stronger state and local government. But how small can you go? On projects of this magnitude, you can't ever shrink the federal government to the point where it is so small that it can't help in a situation like this."

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Did Tampa help kill a dying tradition?

Politico's Anna Palmer and Manu Raju set for tomorrow's Tampa Bay Times:

Was this the last grand party for the Grand Old Party?

It's 90-plus degrees here. There's a 30-minute walk through a near vacant downtown past scores of cops to get to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. And that doesn't even count the hour-plus bus rides some delegates have endured to get back to their hotels after a long evening of speeches.

TV networks had already announced they would skip Monday's planned Ann Romney speech, so when organizers canceled the day entirely and moved her to Tuesday due to Tropical Storm Isaac, there wasn't much lost. And with many lawmakers skipping the convention entirely or headed for the exits before Mitt Romney's big speech Thursday night, prominent members of both parties say it's time to rethink the whole convention setup.

I'm a St. Pete taxpayer. I went to that silly party on Sunday. So I'm down with this.

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