There’s been some interesting debate on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere about the Clint Eastwood speech, which I labeled a debacle.
Some people feel it was successful. It was an authentic moment with Clint being Clint and the crowd inside the hall ate it up.
I wouldn’t disagree with any of that. It did seem to work with the audience there on the scene. (If not the staff, whom multiple reports describe as “wincing.”) Whether it resonated positively with the TV audience and among independent voters is another, bigger question.
In my opinion, it did not. But really that’s not the point. Putting all that aside, regardless of its merits and whether or not it worked on its own terms, here is why I call it a debacle: it was a huge distraction from the main point of the convention, which was to put Mitt Romney front and center and introduce him to the electorate.
So the next morning, instead of talking about what was indeed a “solid” (that descriptor came up a lot) speech by Romney, much of the attention on the news shows and online was on the bizarre Clint Eastwood moment.
It’s about stepping on your message. The Bush crew, with Karl Rove in charge, was pretty good at keeping a tight lid on things. Rahm Emanuel has performed a similar role in various capacities for the Democrats. Others with that kind of power include James Baker and Michael Deaver. I don’t think Romney has someone of that caliber on his campaign staff.
Whether or not this all amounts to a true long-term disaster or a bump in the road for the Romney campaign remains to be seen. But it was, at minimum, a squandered opportunity — at a time when the challenger can’t afford too many mistakes.