The only real surprise of the GOP convention's last night was special guest Clint Eastwood reminding the Republican Party why they're such fans of tight scripts, in a very vivid way.
Eastwood first talked about the emotions of the nation when President Obama was elected, then launched into a diatribe against the president that featured a faux conversation with an empty chair.
Eastwood attacked the idea that lawyers should be president, implied that his invisible Obama told him to say something incredibly offensive to Romney, and bashed the way the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been conducted before concluding that might be time to have a businessman president. He then lead the crowd in a participatory version of his signature phrase, "go ahead, make my day."
The Associated Press is reporting that Romney aides backstage winced throughout the actor's remarks - and that he was the only speaker all night to speak without a teleprompter. Regardless, the crowd ate Eastwood up, laughing at all his jokes and cheering him strongly.
If the Republicans don't want surprises, they ought to avoid surprise guests.
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Lane Filler blogged the first half of the evening as Taylor Hicks, former Olympians and BeBe Winans warmed up the crowd. His post continues here for the rest of the evening.
10:14 p.m. - He's talking about meeting Obama and how the nation was the day he was elected.
Eastwood says with 23 million unemployed, a national disgrace, it's time for someone else to come along and solve the problem.
He's getting a ton of laughs, first one to do that at this convention.
Eastwood asks why we decided to let lawyers be president, crowd loves it.
We own this country, he says.
His message is actually a bit bipartisan, although he's clearly endorsing Mitt. Very simply pro-American.
People begging him to say go ahead, make my day. He does first part, crowd does second.
10:04 p.m. - He's very hard to hear, mike is low and he's mumble.
10:03 p.m. - Crowd chanting USA USA again.
And out comes Clint Eastwood, to tumultuous cheering.
I hope I look that good at his age.
I wish I looked that good at my age.
10:00 p.m. - It's 10 pm. Go time America.
9:59 p.m. - It is a pretty cute video, well done and touching, and everyone near me is watching attentively.
9:57 p.m. - Crowd pretty enraptured with another video, about challenges Mitt has overcome or helped people deal with. Olympics, Ann's MS. Now he's talking about falling in love with her, and she's telling the story too. It is quite sweet.
And now family videos with kids.
9:47 p.m. - There hasn't been a legitimate public speaker or famous politician out here in 90 minutes. Now it's BeBe Winans.
This needs to pick up soon, it goes on network in 13 minutes.
9:45 p.m. - Olympians are starting to bore the crowd. Conversational murmur turning to a buzz.
9:40 p.m. - Now Eruzione is speaking, to Chants of "USA USA."
Talking about Mitt's rescue of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.
9:36 p.m. - She's getting a ton of applause, considering she's a skeet shooter.
9:35 p.m. - And then Mike Eruzione, Miracle on Ice hockey legend.
9:34 p.m. - Dan Janson, Rowdy Gaines are biggest stars. Oh, and Scott Hamilton, to much applause
9:32 p.m. - Now it's time for the Olympians. Five-time skeet shooting gold medalist up now. That's something you likely won't see at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte.
9:31 p.m. - Oops, because the song is "Taking it to the Streets."
9:30 p.m. - Taylor Hicks, of American Idol fame, now singing.
Amazing how segments of the crowd rock out when the camera is on them, the stop when it pans away.
Guy can sing, you can't deny, but I'm surrounded by a lot of young people and they've gone back to their smartphones for the duration.
9:20 p.m. - Speaker says of Romney "he will never apologize for America." Thats the big new thing, never apologizing for America. I'm just not sure what's positive about that. We make mistakes. We're big enough to apologize, aren't we?
An unwillingness to apologize, ever, is to me a sign of tremendous weakness.
9:16 p.m. - Former lt. Governor of Massachusetts, who served with Romney, now speaking.
Arena, 45 minutes before primetime and big names, is NBA Finals packed.
People sitting near me are watching and listening, and making comments like "That's amazing," as Romney's friends and coworkers tell stories of his accomplishments.
9:03 p.m. - Staples founder up now.
They keep playing a tiny segment of the Barack Obama "you didn't build that" speech, to great effect. I can't help but wonder if the crowd just doesn't care that the meaning of that quote is entirely out of context when presented in this way.
When you're being lied to, and you know you're being lied to, and you like it, is it still lying?
8:57 p.m. - We're in the middle of a series of nonprofessional speakers who know Mitt, and want to tell us he's a great guy. It's fine, but it's hard to listen to amateurs speak in venues like this. The crowd is being respectful, but it's a pretty tough segment to wade through.
8:56 p.m. - If you want an easy ovation with this crowd, just ask them how Ann Romney did Tuesday night.
8:37 p.m. - Grant Bennet, president of CPS Technologies, friend of Mitt Romney, fellow Mormon.
He's talking about when Romney was a lay Mormon leader in Boston.
His stories of Mitt's time as pastor are obviously a sincere tribute. But they're kind of overly detailed and nitty gritty. Crowd is bit restless.
About the crowd, very different than the past two nights. Most noticeably, the floor delegates are almost all in their seats, a big contrast to the bazaar on market day atmosphere of the past two nights. They're not all paying attention, but they are all sitting or at least standing still.
8:22 p.m. - School choice is his thing, and he's making a weird comparison to the milk selection in a grocery store. I agree with him on choice and his anti-tenure stance, but disagree with his voucher support. Such plans seem to mostly reimburse parents who would have sent their kids to private schools anyway. But vouchers are very popular in the GOP and he has the crowd's attention.
Can Jeb be president someday? I don't know. He is likable and experienced. I think the first question is whether he'd ever run, there never seems to be a clear answer on that.
8:12 p.m. - And now former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to hearty applause. He is definitely the most popular Bush these days.
Jeb says he loves his brother, and gives light props on his presidency.
It would have been odd, honestly, if he didn't. But he only gives George W. two sentences. His real topic is education, a passion for Jeb.
Jeb is roundly considered a pretty good guy. Like his brother, he's far more liberal on immigration than the GOP in general, and he's sort of given a pass it because his wife is from Mexico.
He's rattling off sad US education statistics, to fair applause, but it's pretty numbers heavy.
8:03 p.m. - A Romney son talking immigration. Talking about how his family came here from Mexico. He did not mention that they were there to live as polygamists, which Utah had outlawed.
8:00 p.m. - Now a video about the merits of Hispanics. The push to woo the Hispanic vote at this convention has been constant. Which it has to be, if the Republicans are going to keep a national party.
Because let me tell you, the whiteness of the attendees at this conventions is shocking.
7:57 p.m. - They're continuing the Reagan meme. The alternating speaking is annoying. Making a lot of Carter-Obama comparisons. Essentially implying Romney will heal the Obama mess as Reagan did Carter's.
On each side of the stage is a sign language interpreter. I imagine they are not visible on TV.
I once interviewed the woman who was signing for John Edwards, in 2004, asking how they got these gigs and how new words are introduced into sign language when they evolve, like "Internet".
She said there was sort of a bureau for sign language interpreters and a newsletter to introduce new signs.
7:51 p.m. - Newt and Calista are trading off speaking. He's had a rough time this week. His "Newt U" sessions were poorly attended and word is he's been feeling a bit down and marginalized.
7:50 p.m. - It's a Reagan tribute. He's been well featured here, though not as slavishly as in the primaries, or in the 2008 election.
And the fiends to a nice round of applause.
Followed by the entrance of Newt and Calista Gingrich.
7:46 p.m. - A video now, and everybody shuts up. Reagan on the screen. The videos have been great, often better than the speakers, and the audience is already conditioned to be attentive.
7:43 p.m. - Mack is the great-grandson of legendary baseball manager and team owner (Philadelphia A's) Connie Mack. His father and grandfather also shared that name, so he is a IV.
7:40 p.m. - As they get going tonight with the Pledge and the prayer, it is very different vibe than ethe past two nights. The arena is far more full than it was at this time last night.
An interesting aside I meant to mention last night but forgot in the tumult: Almost every member, If not every member, of the color guard last night had at least one prosthetic limb.
Florida Rep. Connie Mack up first.
6:45 p.m. - It’s the grand finale.
The third and final night of the shortened Republican National Convention begin at 7 p.m. Planned highlights include Florida’s Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, as well as, of course, nominee Mitt Romney.
Also on tap: A “surprise guest speaker.” No word on the identity, but the rumor is Clint Eastwood.
It’s been a quiet convention thus far. There have been a few highlights, most notably Ann Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and VP nominee Paul Ryan.
But in general the mood has been muted. The arena is full of people more opposed to President Barack Obama than happy about Mitt Romney, and it has shown. It’s easier to get fired up on love of your candidate than on dislike of your opponent.
But tonight, with Romney himself on tap and the convention building to a crescendo, may be different.