As we await the prime time speeches at the Republican Convention, I can’t help but wonder what type of convention Team Romney will throw. And I think back to 1992 when two very different approaches were on display.
First, there were the Democrats. Candidate Bill Clinton was behind in the polls, but used the convention to define a new image for himself, complete with a Hollywood-produced video called “Man from Hope” that established the Bill Clinton we all know and love. Someone who knows adversity and can feel our pain because he’s been there too.
You can see part 2 here.
Bill Clinton enjoyed a 30-point bounce coming out of his convention, surging ahead of then-President George H. W. Bush.
Next came the Republicans. Rather than use the convention to re-brand George Bush, his team handed over the convention stage to the far right elements of the party who thought Bush wasn’t strong on the social and moral issues they cared about.
The keynote speech at the 1992 RNC was given by Pat Buchanan and it was noteworthy in its anger and hatred for gays in particular. Here are just some of the fun parts:
“This is radical feminism. The agenda that Clinton & Clinton would impose on America: abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units. That’s change, all right. But that’s not the kind of change America needs. It’s not the kind of change America wants. And it’s not the kind of change we can abide in a nation we still call ‘God’s country.'” …
“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.”
What happened next? The culture war speech and extreme rhetoric on display at the RNC alienated moderates, and Bush was never able to close the gap.
Will this week be about re-branding Romney, showing America that he’s not just the guy who likes to fire people and doesn’t care about the very poor? Or will it be about putting the far right wing of the party on stage to shore up the base and send a message from Romney that “I’m one of you?” Given the recent dust-up about abortion platforms with no rape exception, you’d think they’d stay far away from the George H.W. Bush approach, but they are Republicans. They may not be able to resist.