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Following conventions

The republican national convention heads to Tampa next week with a wary eye on Hurricane Isaac, but there’s an unnatural disaster in the eye of the storm. Anirudh Bhattacharyya writes.

columns Updated: Aug 24, 2012 20:52 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya,Hurricane Isaac,Hurricane Gustav

Disaster struck the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St Paul, Minnesota, in 2008 and I’m not talking about the nomination of John McCain as the party’s candidate for president. As Hurricane Gustav threatened America’s Gulf Coast, Republicans had to cancel the opening day’s events though St Paul wasn’t in its path. Smartly enough, they chose Tampa, Florida, for this year’s convention, in the middle of hurricane country, during hurricane season.

After Gustav simmered down and the convention began, there was actually an electric atmosphere at the venue, the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St Paul, because of the vice-presidential nominee — Sarah Palin. Amid the Palindemonium, McCain was an afterthought, just as he was when voters elected a new president that November.

The RNC heads to Tampa next week with a wary eye on Hurricane Isaac, but there’s an unnatural disaster in the eye of the storm. Bill Clinton had his bimbo eruptions; the Republican Senate candidate from Missouri Todd Akin delivered a dumbo eruption, spewing idiocy about “legitimate rape” not causing pregnancy.

But Akin aside, the Republicans’ presidential nominee-to-be Mitt Romney is better placed than McCain was. There’s a near perfect storm of economic factors playing to Romney’s advantage, from high unemployment to stimuli gone wild. Also, his campaign can open the gusher of the gazillion dollars it has raised but was legally prevented from spending until he was formally nominated at the convention.

Romney, who is normally so dull that — if someone else hadn’t filched that title for a bestseller — his autobiography could well have been called ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, is getting a lot of buzz from his VP pick. That’s Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, a grunge metal fan, who listens to bands like, fittingly enough, Rage Against the Machine. Curiously enough, this time around, a policy wonk is getting the sort of attention usually reserved for Lady Gaga’s experiments in couture.

Ryan is a strange sort of Washington insider who actually wants to slash government spending. He’s an adherent of the philosophy propounded by late President Ronald Reagan when he said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.” Funnily enough, like Reagan, Ryan has no problem running down the government while being all for running it.

The Romney-Ryan ticket should emerge from Tampa with a bounce in the polls, at least until the Democrats gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, for their gabfest and grab it back.

The organisers of the latter convention will have to provide idiotproof directions to US Vice-President Joe Biden; after all he appears to be chronologically and geographically challenged. Biden recently asked an audience: “Folks, where’s it written we cannot lead the world in the 20th century in making automobiles?” Perhaps he needs a new calendar. And a GPS, since while stumping in Virginia, he thought he was in North Carolina.

Even as the Democratic machine rails against ‘vulture capitalism’ and Wall Street, President Barack Obama finds himself in the unfortunate position of giving his big speech at the Bank of America Stadium. His administration should have flung some of those stimulus dollars at buying that arena and renamed it the Federal Reserve Bank of America Stadium.

As I sat in the media seats at Invesco Field in Denver, where Obama accepted his party’s nomination in August 2008, the enthusiasm was palpable as the thousands gathered there stomped their feet and made the stadium quake. This time, he’ll be playing to a tougher crowd. Droves of Democrats are skipping the convention including one North Carolina Congressman whose district is just a mile from the venue.

Still, the Obama-Biden ticket should also get a lift from the convention. The conventions allow both parties to parrot their platforms on TV, and their candidates (and undercards) to strut their stuff on stage. Thankfully, the 2012 campaign is into its final stretch. Candidates for 2016 are already limbering up.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 24, 2012 20:50 IST