Zac Byer: Prix Fixe Politics Live from the RNC

Greetings from hot and humid Tampa Bay, Florida!  It’s the final day of the Republican National Convention, with Mitt Romney taking the stage later tonight.  If there was ever a time Romney needed to look Americans in the eye and convince them that he understands their problems, it’s now.  Here’s today’s menu…
Appetizer:  The most important word of the week hasn’t been “accountability” or “jobs” or “leadership” — for any convention-goer, it’s “Credential.”  There are different badges for the media and for the delegates, distinctions by forum section and suite level access.  Two of the biggest tickets are the blue floor passes (if it says “Escort” you can bring two others down with you) and black production passes (backstage access).  Tuesday night we ran into one of the good men in the Senate, John Barrasso of Wyoming.  Shaking his hand, I couldn’t help but notice his “Maine Delegate” badge.  His response:  “Hey, you can never have too many credentials at one of these things!” When a US Senator is wearing credentials from states other than his own, you know they come at a premium
Main Course:  We’ve been talking to swing voters across the country for months now, but there’s been a clear revelation recently.  Americans think Romney is better equipped to solve their problems, but that he doesn’t understand them.  And they think Obama better understands their problems, but is entirely unable to solve them.  Here are three important takeaways:  1) Many will cast their vote for the lesser of two shortcomings.  Obama 2008 voters who are switching won’t be voting for Romney as much as they are voting against Obama.  2) Obama needs to convince voters that he made genuine efforts to solve, or at least temper, the economic crisis that began in 2008.  That means cutting down on the blame game — Bush, Congress, Europe, the weather, Bibi Netanyahu — and imploring Americans to give him another chance to finish what he started.  3) Romney’s speech tonight matters.  As you’ll read below, I don’t think these conventions will matter as much as the debates, but if there’s any part of this week that could swing this election, it’s Romney’s speech.  Paul Ryan gave a great one last night — it was emotional, energized, and honest — but nobody casts their vote in November for the Vice President.  So tonight, Romney MUST convince America that he gets it.  Corny campaign trail stories won’t do it.  He needs to admit to being a little stuffier than other candidates, a little less charismatic, a little less inclined to give that “human touch.”  For 5 years now, Romney’s been on the defensive about his wealth, his record, and his personality.  Admitting something about the third could be just the right amount of self-deprecation to better ingratiate himself with the general public.
Dessert:  And even though the RNC hasn’t ended and the DNC hasn’t begun, it’s still not too early to think about the debates.  They say there are three swing moments in an election:  the VP selection, the Conventions, and the debates.  Here’s why the mano-a-mano showdowns will be by far the most important of the three this time around… Obama and Romney have never really interacted one-on-one.  They didn’t serve in Congress together, they weren’t Governors at the same time, they never duked it out over legislation on the floor of the capitol.  Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, and neither could their styles.  There will be such a clear contrast between the two that any undecided voters still out there (currently about 5-7% of likely voters) should have a very clear picture of who’s best suited to be our next president.  Those who give Romney an edge because of his fundraising margins are overstating the importance of ads this late in the cycle — there aren’t enough undecided voters out there, and the swing states have been so inundated with 30 second spots that they’ve become nothing more than white noise.  October’s going to be fun.
After Dinner Drink:  There is, however, one ad that still works.  Show real people who voted for Obama in 2008 who won’t be in 2012, and lose the ominous narrator and glitzy graphics.  Watch this:

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