Ryan's no Palin in ratings; Eastwood gets speaking slot
RYAN RATINGS UNDERWHELM: Only about half as many people saw Paul Ryan's speech Wednesday night as watched Sarah Palin's in St. Paul, Minn., four years ago. TVNewser reports that about 20 million tuned in, compared with 37.2 million for Palin in 2008.
CLINT EASTWOOD IS RNC'S 'MYSTERY GUEST': The actor, who once served as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., supports abortion rights and gay marriage. He has had seven children with five women, yet he has only been married twice. He's on record supporting gun control, including mandatory waiting periods. And he has described himself as more of a libertarian. But he got a plum speaking slot on the most important night of the Republican convention.
PAUL SUPPORTERS STAGE 'WALK-IN': A few hundred Ron Paul delegates, alternates and supporters walked out of the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Wednesday night to protest the exclusion of pro-Paul delegates from Maine. But the Texas congressman's campaign wants to send the message that libertarians are still earnest about working within the GOP. In fact, they believe that they will one day be the dominant wing of the party. So about 200 decided to gather at the pavilion entrance of the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday night and walk in together. "We're still here," said Jeremy Blosser, a Texas alternate. "We're not going anywhere."
OOPS: A Secret Service agent's gun was found in the bathroom of Romney's charter plane by a reporter for CBS/National Journal during a flight from Tampa to Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. The Secret Service said it is dealing with the matter internally.
GINGRICH AIDE GOING TO WORK FOR AKIN: Rick Tyler, who ran the pro-Gingrich super PAC during the presidential primaries, is joining Todd Akin's embattled Senate campaign.
GINGRICH DEFENDS AKIN: Seizing on a survey released Thursday by Public Policy Polling that shows Akin still virtually tied with Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, Gingrich said Thursday that Akin has the right to stay in. "My party has an unfortunate tendency to rush to judgment against itself," he said. "This guy won the primary . . . who are the money guys to call him and say, 'Hey, you should get out?' "
JEB BUSH WANTS TO DEFEND HIS BROTHER: "I just feel compelled to do this because almost every day I hear the current incumbent feeling compelled to push down the past to make himself look better," the former Florida governor said on Fox News, previewing his speech. "When I was growing up, we were spanked when that happened."
BACK ON THE ROAD: Romney and Ryan appear together at a 10 a.m. sendoff rally at Lakeland Airport today. Then they have a 2 p.m. rally at the airport in Richmond, Va.
• RICK SANTORUM playing a scratch-off game from his soda cup as he hung out with Foster Friess, the main donor behind his super PAC, surrounded by reporters on radio row.
• ALLEN WEST, the Florida congressman, wearing a tie with Republican elephants on it.
• A DELEGATE wearing a Todd Akin button.
• SCOTT WALKER getting teary-eyed Wednesday night as Ryan spoke.
• CHRIS CHRISTIE holding up about 1,000 delegates and guests trying to leave the convention Wednesday night for about 20 minutes while either his entourage or security detail shut down a key convention passage for his motorcade's departure.
POLITICO's Kate Nocera, Tim Mak, Dylan Byers, Lois Romano, Anna Palmer and Manu Raju contributed to this report.
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