The Wednesday list of speakers at the Republican National Convention in Tampa featured back-to-back orators from Kentucky. The first, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, took the podium shortly after 7 PM EDT, and immediately began to assail Barack Obama’s record as President. While last nights speeches featured Ann Romney talking about love and the compassion and understanding of the “real marriage” she enjoys with her husband, today’s speech from the senior Senator from the Bluegrass State set a decidedly different tone, attacking President Obama’s performance with the economy, which continues to struggle to gain steam, particularly in the battleground convention host state of Florida.
“To call this a recovery,” McConnell declared. “Is an insult to recoveries.”
The Senator cited Obama’s record budget deficits, the increase in the national debt, and the apparent media and pop culture obsession with the President’s personal tastes. “We know what the President’s got on his Ipod.”
Many believed he would focus on trying to win over voters for the Senate race to win the chamber, but his speech appeared to focus on not just that, but on the desire of the GOP to set itself apart from the Democrats from both a standpoint of ideology and policy. The Senator also blasted Obama for using America as a “four year experiment in big government.”
McConnell then attempted to rally disillusioned independent voters who chose Obama in 2008, referring to nominee Mitt Romney when he said “help is on the way.”
Next up was Senator Rand Paul, son of Texas Senator and former Presidential candidate Ron Paul. The younger Paul’s speech was clearly aimed at the party base, particularly tea party memberse, with a focus on shrinking the federal government, attacking the big government policies of the President, and contrasting the basic political philosophies of the Democratic and Republican Parties.
“The powers of the federal government are few and defined,” said Paul, referencing opinions about the scope of the Constitution itself. Paul then referred to President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment. “When I heard the current President say ‘you didn’t build that,’ first I was insulted, then I was angered, then I was saddened.”
Paul continued, reminding delegates and the viewing public about the GOP view of American greatness. “For most of our history, no one dare tell Americans ‘you didn’t build that.’”
Next, the Senator spoke of the Tang family, who opened a donut shop after emigrating from war-torn Cambodia. He told the story of the Tang children becoming National Merit Scholars, then called out President Obama, saying “Don’t you going telling the Tang family they didn’t build that.”
Paul then accused President Obama of ignoring the middle and working class, referencing waitresses, laborers, small business owners, and others. He then spoke of his father, who immigrated to the United States, who became a minister, then referenced on of his sons, who was a “certain congressman from Texas,” an obvious reference to his father, Senator Ron Paul. He then read from a poem which he said captured “the essence of the American dream.”
“’Hello American sailor, hello freedom man,’” Paul said. “It reminds us all of what America‘s been. A place a man or woman can come to for freedom.”
He then mentioned how President Obama’s programs will add $6 trillion in one term, to which he added “and I’m hoping it’s just one term.”
“Mr. President,” he further said in a statement which electrified tea party Republicans. “We will not let you bankrupt this great nation. Republicans and Democrats alike must slay their sacred cows.”
Paul then made reference to an oft-quoted statement by Benjamin Franklin. “We must never trade our freedoms for some fleeting promise of security.”
Closing off with references to late former President Ronald Reagan, inventor Thomas Edison, and others who he believed helped make America great, Paul then declared Mitt Romney the one who could continue that greatness, with chants of “USA! USA!” coming from parts of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“Our freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction,” Paul said, citing Reagan’s 1961 speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
The speeches, which lasted approximately fifteen and twenty minutes, respectively, were full of standard platform rhetoric, but had vastly different tones. Paul, in particular, focused on what conservatives see as encroachments on constitutional freedoms, where McConnell focused more on ideology and performance. Where Paul electrified the tea party wing and GOP delegates as a whole, McConnell’s speech, by comparison, appeared aimed more to the prime-time news viewer and media, with little, if any, serious cheering observed.
Wednesday night’s schedule features speeched by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is expected to focus on his working class roots and self-reliance in an effort to undercut the Democratic Party’s attacks portraying Mitt Romney as a member of the so-called “one percent club.” Also scheduled to appear are former President George W. Bush via video, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was part of the legal team which unsuccessfully sued to have the Health Care Reform Act declared unconstitutional.