Was Mitt Romney Upstaged by a Chair?

Romneys (Getty Images)
Romneys (Getty Images)

(The Root) — The final night of a political convention is supposed to be the most predictable. The party nominee comes out, officially accepts his nomination and then delivers a speech that he hopes, at its best, boosts his candidacy and at its worst, doesn't hurt it. Well, the final night of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., turned out to be anything but predictable. Below is a look back at the three most memorable moments and takeaways from the end of the gathering.


1. Romney comes out swinging for the women.

The Romney campaign has been trailing the Obama campaign with women voters by double digits throughout the presidential campaign, a gap that must be narrowed for the GOP to have a chance in November. This challenge was clearly on the Romney campaign's mind, as women were front and center in the candidate's speech, although there was no mention of hot-button issues like the exemption on the anti-abortion plank for incest and rape, which has divided the Republican party — including Gov. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan.

There were references to numerous women in Romney's speech, in the public arena and in his personal life. One of the most touching moments was when he recalled that his father brought his mother a rose every day throughout their decades-long marriage. In addition to emphasizing the importance of their strong marriage in shaping his own, he highlighted his mother's own extraordinary life and career (she was a candidate for the United States Senate), and added that his wife, Ann, could have had a career if she wanted to, but instead chose to take on a job tougher than his: her work as a stay-at-home mother. This line — which drew cheers from the audience — was a direct play for mothers and an attempt to further capitalize on the media frenzy that erupted when Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen said Ann Romney, who has never been employed outside of the home because of her family's comfortable economic status, "never worked a day in her life."

Romney also mentioned that during his term as Massachusetts governor, his lieutenant governor was a woman, as were his chief of staff and half of the appointees in his administration. The takeaway? Romney is not going to give up the women's vote — or at least a share of it — without a fight, and he plans to go into battle for them with an army of women behind him, including his wife and Condoleezza Rice.

2. Dirty Harry talks to a chair … and then keeps talking.

From the beginning of the convention there was buzz about a surprise "mystery" guest who would insure that the Republican National Convention ended with a bang. Rumors ranged from the not so necessarily far-fetched (Sarah Palin, George W. Bush) to the interesting but unlikely (Tim Tebow). So when Hollywood legend turned onetime Republican Mayor Clint Eastwood's name began being mentioned, it was greeted with less shock and awe and more "meh."


Until he took the stage.

I'm convinced that from today on if you look up "unpredictable" in the dictionary there will be a picture of an empty chair … with Clint Eastwood talking to it. As unbelievable as it may sound, that actually happened on the last night of the Republican National Convention. One of the greatest actors and directors in history spent nearly half an hour talking to a chair that he pretended held the president of the United States. Even more unbelievable is the fact that a serious contender for the presidency, or rather his advisers, thought this piece of performance art was a good idea as the opening act for the most important night of Gov. Romney's career. Granted, I never thought I'd see the day when "Dirty Harry" would be upstaged by an empty chair. But I really never thought I'd see the day when a potential future leader of the free world would be upstaged by one.


3. Romney knows he's not Mr. Likable, so he's aiming for Mr. Fix It.

Every convention features cheesy biographical films on the candidate, his childhood and his family in attempt to "humanize" him to audiences. But for Romney, this proved a greater challenge than for most. He and his advisers know he is never going to be Mr. Personality. But tonight's biographical video did go a long way in humanizing him as Mr. Parent, Mr. Husband and Mr. Decent Guy, while his speech attempted to affirm him as Mr. Guy Who May Have Little Personality But Lots of Skill.


At times, the speech succeeded, particularly when he focused on what his self-made parents taught him about the importance of building success. But in some ways that tactic turned out to be an impediment, because in recalling his parents' early struggles and the fact that they were self-made, it also reminds us that Mitt Romney didn't build that success by himself.

Keli Goff is The Root's political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter