It has been a great honor to serve as Utah Attorney General, and a special privilege to represent the Utah GOP as a national delegate. I proudly watched three former attorney general colleagues of mine inspire the primetime audience: NH Senator Kelly Ayotte, VA Governor Bob McDonald and NV Governor Brian Sandoval, each speaking to the convention themes of “We Can Do Better,” “We Built It” and “We Can Change It.”
As I write, Rick Santorum is speaking to the fourth and overriding theme (and title of Romney’s economic recovery plan), “Believe In America! He finished a moving address with a strong endorsement of Romney-Ryan as leaders who will restore the American Dream – a powerful exclamation point on the unity that has been the hallmark of the this convention.
Continuing “Big-tent” cultural, racial and gender unity, Ted Cruz, former TX Assistant AG and current GOP Senate candidate, just spoke of his father who escaped torture and imprisonment in Cuba and fled to America the year I was born, 1957. “No tenia nada” Cruz said of his Papa, “pero tenia Corazon.” (“He had nothing, but he had heart!”) He was followed by former African-American Democratic Representative and Obama supporter turned Republican, Arthur Davis, juxtaposed JFK telling us to ask what we can do for our country to today’s Democrats asking us, “what can your government give to you?” And then… then, Ann Romney took the stage and won the hearts of women all over America! Drudge Report immediately headlined her “Mrs. America!”
It will be fun to watch how these themes grow and progress the next two nights, but strength in unity will continue to prevail. It hasn’t always been that way in convention politics. One hundred years ago, the 1912 GOP Convention battle between former President Theodore Roosevelt and incumbent President Howard Taft became so combative and divisive that it led directly to the election of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson in the Fall. In his book, Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics,Lewis L. Gould, tells the story of that election.
When he left office in 1909 he helped propel his hand-picked successor William Howard Taft into the White House. Four years later, Teddy changed his mind and so despised Taft’s politics that he sought to replace his former friend and return as Chief Executive. Divided over the size of government and expansion of regulatory control over our lives, the hatred grew and personal vitriolic sparring make today’s negative attacks sound like playground taunts. By the time the party convened in the Chicago Coliseum, the two behemoths, and the party, were locked in near mortal combat. The president declared that his predecessor had become “the most dangerous man in America,” and labeled him a “honeyfugler” (someone who deceives by flattery or sweet-talk, or swindles and cheats.) Not to be outdone, the former Rough-rider shot back, calling the President of the United States, and fellow Republican, a “puzzlewit,” (stupid person) and a “fathead with the brains of a guinea pig.”)
Gould writes, “Roosevelt won all the Republican primaries against Taft except in Massachusetts. Taft dominated the caucuses that sent delegates to the state conventions. When the voting was done, neither man had the 540 delegates needed to win. Roosevelt had 411, Taft had 367 and minor candidates had 46, leaving 254 up for grabs. The Republican National Committee, dominated by the Taft forces, awarded 235 delegates to the president and 19 to Roosevelt, thereby ensuring Taft's renomination.”
Teddy Roosevelt felt cheated and labeling what happened at the convention “Armageddon,” he left the GOP and ran in the Fall as the candidate of the Progressive Party, ensuring a victory for Democrat Woodrow Wilson. After the loss, the Republican Party solidified as the party of smaller government, less regulation, free market and individual liberty, electing three successive presidents and continuing that theme into the 21st Century. Two more days and nights of GOP rallying behind our new standard bearer Mitt Romney will be followed by a Democratic counter-punch in Charlotte. Then the real fight for the future of America begins in earnest.