New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the star attraction at the delayed opening of the Republican convention in Tampa -- but he was almost upstaged by the nominee's wife: Ann Romney.
Almost upstaged, but not quite.
Both had different messages, both delivered them magnificently, both hit home runs. Ann Romney's goal was to appeal to women (who according to polls are cool towards Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy) and to "humanize" her husband as warm and caring.
She did this in spades -- arguably the most powerful and effective speech ever given by a candidate's wife.
Christie's goal was to rescue America, to revive hope and inspiration and to point the way ahead. To encourage leadership and not shrink from hard truths. Christie radiated conviction and fearless confidence -- the Happy Warrior syndrome.
If my wife is any barometer, the charismatic Christie is the next Ronald Reagan -- destined someday to be president, unless his appalling overweight leads to a heart attack.
In short, judging from speeches at its delayed start (Hurricane Isaac), Romney's appeal should leap forward.
In explaining her husband (mostly to America's women), Ann Romney -- who first met Romney at a high school dance when she was 15 -- said: "More than anything he made me laugh." Then she added: "Forty-seven years later I still love that boy at the dance and he still makes me laugh."
To those who think Romney's wealth made their life a "story book marriage," she quietly reminded that a "story book marriage" did not include multiple sclerosis or breast cancer, both of which Mrs. Romney has endured.
Perhaps her most telling point was mentioning Romney's reluctance to boast about caring for people: "He sees helping others as a privilege, not as a political talking point."
It's hardly surprising that delegates were bowled over by her sincerity, warmth and obvious love and respect for her husband. It matched Christie's passion for America.
His was not a usual political speech. It was tough and honest -- and won instant applause when he outlined problems of America: "I think we've become paralyzed by the need to be loved." To him, being respected is more precious than being loved. "It's easier to say 'yes' than to say 'no,' when it's 'no' that is required."
He called upon Americans to "stand up for what is right," and to practice common sense over individual self-interest -- which was a shot at the Democrats. "They believe in teachers' unions -- we believe in teachers."
He said America needs Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, "right now...It's our time to answer history's call...we want an America where 'American exceptionalism' is not just a punch line... we have never been victims of destiny, but masters of our destiny." And so on.
Christie's call fitted well with Ann Romney's "solemn commitment -- this man will not fail...you can trust Mitt."
At the end of her speech, Romney came out on the stage and they embraced and kissed -- not an Al Gore-Tipper smooch, but a genteel Republican version of same.
While Chris Christie and Ann Romney were the marquee attractions, a supporting cast of Republican governors and senators from states that voted Democratic in 2008, were the supporting cast. Especially former Alabama Representative Arthur Davis, an African-American who gave the keynote address at the 2008 Democratic convention, and now says he's trying to correct his mistake then, by supporting Romney now.
Politics makes strange bedfellows.
More to come. . . .