There should be one simple rule for how to make a nomination convention a success: don’t let anything distract from the candidate and the message. I assumed this piece of common sense should be self-evident to even a low level campaign worker, but after watching the bizarre spectacle which was the Republican National Convention last night it appears I greatly overestimated the skills of the people running the Romney campaign.
Inviting Clint Eastwood and allowing him to ramble like some weirdo to an empty chair before Romney got to speak was a mind blowingly bad decision. What Eastwood actually said for the most part is politically unimportant but the way his bizarre performance has distracted from Romney is political malpractice.
The day after a candidate’s nomination acceptance speech should be one of the best, if not the best, news cycles for the candidate. If the convention was executed in a semi-competent manner, that next day all the news organization’s big headlines should only be about how the nominee gave a “solid speech which made them look Presidential.” No one really wants to write such a boring headline, but the job of the campaign should be to make sure that boring yet positive headline is the only news there is to report from the event. Instead, by putting Eastwood out there like that, the Romney campaign gave the media a much less boring story.
As a result, the top of Memeorandum today isn’t stories about Romney’s speech, but stories about Eastwood. The main picture on The Hill’s website isn’t single shot of a triumphant Romney but a split screen of him, Paul Ryan and Eastwood. The twitter buzz last night was all Eastwood.
In the grand scheme of things, needlessly wasting one news cycle is a small thing, but the actual campaign is only really about a collection of small things. The campaign team can’t change the big things that dominate an election; the state of the economy, demographics, historical voting patterns, international crisis, etc… all a campaign does is win on the small things. They can only really try to move the needle a few degrees and hope that makes the difference. Last night the Romney campaign made a big unforced error.