As we approach the RNC's Tuesday evening session, let's take a peek at tonight's starting lineup:
Sen. Rand Paul - Following a tribute video to his father, the freshman US Senator from Kentucky will bring a grassroots, Tea Party message to delegates. Will Paul's speaking slot mollify any of his dad's passionate and devoted followers?
Sen. John McCain - The 2008 GOP nominee will again make the case against Barack Obama, the man who defeated him four years ago. McCain's speech will likely focus on national security and foreign policy, issues on which Obama typically polls rather well. Still, there is ample room for criticism of the administration's record. Expect to hear about the national security leak scandal, as well as the administration's shabby treatment of US allies. Though he lost by a substantial margin last cycle, McCain retains foreign policy gravitas and substantial credibility with independents.
Sen. Rob Portman - The popular Ohio Senator will probably swing back into economic mode, setting the table for Paul Ryan's speech on the fiscal calamity that awaits us, absent leadership and positive reform. Portman was considered by some to be the Veepstakes favorite prior to Romney's selection of Paul Ryan. The Romney campaign hopes his active support will help deliver the Buckeye State's 18 electoral votes in the fall.
Gov. Luis Fortuno - Puerto Rico's chief executive is a charismatic conservative leader and is a significant part of the GOP's Hispanic outreach effort. Delegates and television viewers will see live images of a watch party in San Juan, the territory's capital city.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty - Another VP runner-up, the former Minnesota Governor will drive home an economic message focused on middle class voters. One of the attributes on T-Paw's Veep resume was his blue collar appeal, middle class upbringing, and ability to attract the support of independents and conservative Democrats, as he did twice in the North Star State.
Gov. Mike Huckabee - Media star and social conservative leader Mike Huckabee is genial and likeable with a significant national constituency. One complication: He's been a vocal supporter of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin in the wake of his "rape" meltdown. Will that taint his appearance? Speaking of that controversy, hmmm.
Condoleezza Rice - A former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, "Condi" is extremely popular within Republican circles. She's brilliant and beautiful, and she'll bring a message of American exceptionalism to Tampa. Her buzzworthy private talk to Romney donors several months ago fueled brief Vice Presidential chatter, and may have secured her this speaking slot.
Gov. Susana Martinez - Voters will meet the nation's first ever Latina Governor tonight. Martinez enjoys other-worldly approval ratings in New Mexico, where she was elected in 2010. Will that popularity translate on the national stage?
Rep. Paul Ryan - Mitt Romney's running mate will accept his party's Vice Presidential nomination at the end of the night. His address will echo some of the biggest applause lines from his campaign stump speech, strongly criticize Obamacare, and build a serious case for fiscal sanity. I hope he goes at least "half-wonk," clearly and honestly explicating the problems we face, exposing the president's failure to address them, and offering his ticket's solutions. I wouldn't mind seeing a debt chart or two displayed on the high-tech arrangement of screens that serve as the podium's backdrop. Numbers are Ryan's strength. And those numbers represent what's at stake in this election. I hope the Romney campaign isn't afraid to allow him to be the sunny, serious explainer-in-chief that he is. It doesn't have to be overly wonky, nor does this topic necessitate a dry presentation. But vague, uplifting generalities aren't the currency in which Ryan trades. Unleash the solutions-oriented, competent, unthreatening nerd.
UPDATE - The Romney campaign has released the following excerpts of Ryan's acceptance speech:
"I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old – and I know that we are ready. Our nominee is sure ready. His whole life has prepared him for this moment – to meet serious challenges in a serious way, without excuses and idle words. After four years of getting the run-around, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney.
“Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country. The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.
“We have a plan for a stronger middle class, with the goal of generating 12 million new jobs over the next four years.
“My Dad used to say to me: ‘Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.’ The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems. And I’m going to level with you: We don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.
"The right that makes all the difference now is the right to choose our own leaders. You are entitled to the clearest possible choice because the time for choosing is drawing near. So here is our pledge. We will not duck the tough issues – we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others – we will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles. The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of us – all of us, but we can do this. Together, we can do this."