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First Day of Republican National Convention Lasts 2 Minutes

While soon-to-be-Hurricane Issac has missed Tampa, it is nevertheless raining on the Republicans' parade. It is likely to hit Louisiana with 12-foot storm surges, flooding low-lying coastal lands and bringing back memories of Hurricane Katrina. On the day Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, then-President George W. Bush was out in Arizona celebrating the 69th birthday of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) instead of dealing with the disaster. What Republicans want to avoid at all costs is television news coverage with a split screen showing terrible devastation in Louisiana on the left and speakers attacking Obama on the right. Obama can easily make political hay out of the situation merely by showing up in Louisiana in a raincoat to give the impression he is in charge, even though there is little he (or any President) can really do to help. But the optics of Obama appearing to care about Louisians while the Republicans are bashing him doesn't look good. It's all about image.

With all this as background, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus opened the convention at 2 P.M. yesterday and then closed it 2 minutes later. In a sense, delaying the real opening by a day may only make it worse. Monday Isaac was threatening to do a lot of damage. Tuesday and Wednesday it may actually be doing the damage.

Seven Factors that Will Determine the Convention's Success or Failure

The Republican National Committee would like a well-oiled event with no glitches to start Mitt Romney on the path to the White House. They may or may not get it. The Week has made up a list of factors that could make or break the convention, roughly as follows:

Ann Romney's Speech Tonight May Be the Most Important One

One factor left out of the list above is Ann Romney's speech tonight. Her job is to humanize Mitt, a task at which legions of highly paid political consultants have failed. She will talk about his early life, his values, and his role as a husband and father. She may also talk about her multiple sclerosis and how he has cared for her since she was diagnosed. She is all too aware that the winning candidate is generally the one people like best, not the one whose policies they agree with. Somehow or other, she has to make him likable. It's a tall order and the entire campaign may depend on it.

Americans More Interested in GOP Platform than Romney's Speech

A new Pew poll shows that 52% of Americans are interested in the Republican platform and 44% are interested in Mitt Romney's acceptance speech. This is unfortunately for Romney, not only because his speech is his first chance to address the public for an uninterrupted, unfiltered hour, but because the news about the platform is certain to focus on controversial planks like the one asking to ban all abortions, including those resulting from rape. The economic planks, which Romney considers the most important ones, will hardly get any news at all. Romney's personal position on abortion at the moment is that he is favor of allowing rape victims to abort their embryos, so reporters are going to focus on the fact that Romney does not support the Republican platform. What everyone seems to forget is that there is little a President can do about abortion other than appoint Supreme Court Justices who might eventually vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Romney used to be pro-choice, but changed his position when he began running for President.

Is 2012 just 2004 All Over Again?

The polls conducted jointly by Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff in August 2004 and August 2012 have an eerie resemblance to each other. In both cases, an incumbent President with a net approve/disapprove of -1% was deep underwater on his handling of the economy. In both cases, the polls on the popular vote were statistical ties.

Nevertheless, there are some stark differences between the 2004 and 2012 polls. Romney's likability is much worse than John Kerry's was and Obama favorability on foreign policy is much higher than Bush's was. All this suggests that Romney is in a more difficult position than Kerry was at the same point 8 years ago.

Why Do Republicans Say Obama is Divisive?

Republicans constantly accuse President Obama of being "divisive." Why "divisive"? Why not "ignorant," "cowardly," or "incompetent"? Jonathan Bernstein has a plausible theory he calls Luntzism. Many voters say: "Why can't the politicians just work together for the national good," not realizing that the real (unspoken) goals of the parties are fundamentally different. The Democrats, for all their faults (and there are plenty), do really want to make life better for the average American as they have been trying with fits and starts going back to FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. So was the party of Abraham Lincoln. But the modern Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln. It is the party of Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers and its real goal is to lower taxes for the very wealthy. All the noise about abortion and gay rights is just a campaign tactic. When the Republicans are in power, they don't actually do anything about these issues. Remember that when George W. Bush took over, the first thing he did was cut taxes; social issues weren't on the menu.

So why call Obama "divisive"? Since a lot of Americans naively think the politicians should work together, anyone who makes that harder is a bad guy. Probably Republican pollster Frank Luntz tested lots of words with focus groups to find one that bothered people on an emotional level and "divisive" tested well. So he mostly likely wrote a memo telling Republicans to use that word a lot despite the fact that Obama is no more and no less divisive than any other recent President. The other party always dislikes the one in power. Remember that Obama had a huge fight within his own party on Obamacare, which is essentially the health-care plan devised by the Heritage Foundation, a Republican think tank. Surely that is a lot less divisive than the Great Society or New Deal, which were definitely not thought of by Republican think tanks. But our politics has now gotten to the point where it is all about words pollsters have found to test well, irrespective of their relevance.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Florida 50% 46%   Aug 22 Aug 26 ORC International
Michigan 47% 47%   Aug 23 Aug 23 Mitchell Research
North Carolina 43% 43%   Aug 18 Aug 23 SurveyUSA
North Carolina 47% 48%   Aug 22 Aug 26 ORC International
Ohio 45% 45%   Aug 15 Aug 25 Columbus Dispatch

Today's Senate Polls

We have a poll for the Michigan Senate race today that is in contrast to all the other polls so far this year. The poll shows Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) ahead of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Mitchell Research's poll also shows the presidential race a tie in Michigan, again, something no other poll has shown of late. It is likely that the Mitchell sample had more Republicans in it than all the other polls. It will be interesting to see the next poll of the state.

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Michigan Debbie Stabenow* 44% Pete Hoekstra 45%     Aug 23 Aug 23 Mitchell Research
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 44% Josh Mandel 44%     Aug 15 Aug 25 Columbus Dispatch
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 53% Tom Smith 34%     Aug 21 Aug 23 Global Strategy

* Denotes incumbent