"Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands."
-- Clint Eastwood
CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. -- The final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa was supposed to be Mitt Romney's, but it was somehow hijacked by Clint Eastwood and an empty chair. After Eastwood's rambling primetime speech, never again will a candidate be afraid that a campaign will appear to be too scripted. As Eastwood took the stage here, camera shots revealed Paul and Janna Ryan laughing nervously, wearing expressions that are typically reserved for a renegade grandparent.
Lost in the post-convention Eastwood-saturated Twittersphere was a pretty strong speech by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and a decent one by Mitt Romney. So much of the week's events seemed to say that while you may not think Romney is a good guy, he's the right man to run things -- kind of like an officious neighbor who can do your taxes for you. The other theme of the convention was to embrace characteristics of Romney's that have been under attack by Obama. Bain Capital? Mitt made things run better. Medicare? He likes it more than the president! Mormonism? Mitt's a man of faith and family.
Still, it felt that there was a propping-up of the candidate for much of the week -- and the fact that Romney aides thought they needed a "surprise guest" last night smacked a little of desperation. Instead, they got attention they hadn't counted on.
Well, the bizarre summer camp here in Clearwater is over. Tampa really is probably too spread out to host a political convention. I heard bad stories of whole busloads of angry conventiongoers stuck in the Florida darkness, preparing to mutiny; delegates didn't stagger back into their rooms until 3 a.m. And thanks partially to Hurricane Isaac, the thick humid air hung around like a drunken guest who wouldn't leave.
We are leaving...on a plane that's taking off in a mere fistful of hours. I imagine the airport will be like Saigon in 1975....only our helicopter is about to take us to another tense place, Charlotte and the Democratic National Convention. The show must go on.