The Republican convention showcased a party that has become a loose coalition of social conservatives and a membership base (two-thirds white) that does not reflect the national demographics. This was embodied in the "mystery" speaker, Hollywood Star Clint Eastwood. His rambling speech, with failed prescriptions and disrespect toward the President, will become a metaphor for this disjointed, grumbling party and its campaign.
The Grand Old Party has in some ways become the Grand Torino Party, the title of Eastwood's dark movie about an angry old guy in a minority neighbourhood.
Romney, not an angry guy, gave a speech long on platitudes and short on specific policies. There was much orchestrated applause and, during the middle, ejections of angry delegates. The convention featured more diversity on its podium than has existed in the party since Nixon's Southern Strategy wooed Southern Democrats into the Republican fold by promising more "state's rights." This forced African-Americans to the Democrats.
The convention producers attempted to portray the party as moderate by excluding the Republican's biggest brands such as the divisive Donald Trump, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.
Romney's sidekick, Paul Ryan, an aerobics instructor turned professional politician, avoided being Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin, but was deceptive. He blamed Obama for the fiscal crisis, caused by his tea party last year, then cited a GM plant closure in Wisconsin as an Obama failure when it occurred under the Bush regime.
The strangest script featured Romney's wife who tried to connect to the public by sharing the "struggles" they had overcome. She said they started off married life in a basement apartment and he worked hard to build his career and wealth.
But they married in 1969, one year after Romney's father, her future father-in-law, had run for President of the United States after making a name, and a fortune, running one of America's largest corporations. Mitt grew up with the rich and famous, and was sent to the best schools, thanks to his rich father. In other words, the Romney "struggle" was equivalent, to Americans, to winning the lottery.
She also spoke about her struggle with health problems. This was dangerous territory because if Romney Care replaces Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, her pre-existing conditions would prevent her from getting health care insurance. Of course, that's irrelevant because she can afford the best medical care anywhere in the world. Few Americans can do so.
Another speaker was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a strange choice considering that Obama has a 14 per cent point lead in his state over Romney, according to Rutgers-Eagleton poll. Likewise, Senator Mario Rubio of Florida spoke despite Obama's 4 per cent lead in Florida and the fact that is Cuban, a unique minority that represents only 3.4 per cent of American's Hispanic population. Most American Hispanics are Mexican and polling shows that 65 per cent support Obama versus 26 per cent for Romney among this minority totaling 49.12 million Americans.
African-Americans were featured as speakers, despite a recent NBC poll that revealed, for the first time in history, there is 0 per cent support for Romney among this minority of 39.6 million Americans.
But the Grand Torino Party's biggest challenge is female voters. Condoleezza Rice got rock-star treatment despite her major role in two unfounded wars and the Bush regime. One Republican female Senator spoke but two others had left the fold recently, upset with the party's lack of inclusivity.
Gallup says that 8 per cent more women favour Obama while 8 per cent more men favour Romney. But the female vote is larger in absolute numbers. In 2008, 10 million more women voted than men and in 2012, an estimated 14 million more will. Polls also show that educated women under 40 are anti-Republican as are a majority of single women (there are 55 million) of all ages.
Romney repeated his promise to create 12-million jobs without details. This may fly with his base, least affected by the mess, but does not resonate with its principal victims. In 2011 unemployment remained at around 8.9 per cent but for whites was 7.9 per cent; for Hispanics 11.5 per cent and for African-Americans 15.8 per cent.
Next week's Democratic convention will reflect a broader base, but the same showbiz antics will be on display. And Obama must make a compelling case for re-election. Politics and entertainment have finally converged but the audiences are demanding and drifting. This is why this election, with its polarization and caricature on both sides, remains unpredictable. More significantly, the trajectory is obvious and American politics, traditionally two parties, will become as fragmented with new parties arising as exists in other democracies.
Whoever wins, given the open-ended campaign finance laws, there will be a Tea Party, and possibly others such as a Green or Libertarian party able to mount credible campaigns. The drift is already happening. For the first time in U.S. history, there are 37 per cent independent voters and they are in charge.