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Paul Ryan's Night

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Fifteen thousand reporters are here all watching the same thing, writing about the same thing, and Tweeting the same thing.

Walking through the huge Tampa Convention Center (where THE Convention is not being held; that is in a nearby building called the Tampa Times Forum) which houses most of those reporters you could see room after room filled with row after row of reporter after reporter trying to tease out the hidden meaning of how long it took for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to mention Mitt Romney's name in his keynote address on Tuesday night.

I watched Ann Romney's and Governor Christie's speeches from the set of Bloomberg TV a block or so away from the Forum.

I thought Mrs. Romney's speech was great. She seemed nervous at the start (and caused many of us to be sympathetically nervous on her behalf) but once she hit her stride she strode confidently through her remarks.

As to Christie's speech, I agree with the New York Times' Ross Doutat who called it "a not great, but pretty good speech."

One of the problems with writing about these speeches from either a mass filing location or from the hall is: You can't help but be influenced by the murmurs, sneers, cheers, nods of approval or head shakes of professional disappointment from the people around you.

For that reason, I am writing this from the insulation of my hotel room where Condoleezza Rice has just brought down the house, and me to tears, with her closing autobiographical paragraph:

A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham - the most segregated big city in America - her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant - but they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter - she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State.

Secretary Rice's speech was separated by equally powerful remarks (occasionally in Spanish) by New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

"Growing up," she said, "I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. But this is America. Y, en America todo es posible.

When Paul Ryan began his acceptance speech, he seemed a little flustered. I wondered whether he would be seen by the vast media conspiracy as having been upstaged by Secretary Rice.

I needn't have worried. As he warmed to his material, he became the familiar speaker/lecturer who has the rare capability of speaking from his heart directly ours.

When Ryan spoke about his mom, having lost her husband at age 50, taking a bus 40 miles each way to Madison (home of the University of Wisconsin) to get a degree and start a small business, he wiped his eyes. And I wiped mine.

As he hit his stride his pacing became perfect, his delivery flawless.

His topic was the recapitulation of the melody introduced by Rice and Martinez in their vocal sonatas.

"When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself."

He touched on the age difference between him (42) and Governor Romney (65) by teasing about their musical tastes:

We're a full generation apart, Governor Romney and I. And, in some ways, we're a little different. There are the songs on his iPod, which I've heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, I hope it's not a deal-breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin.

Ryan built up to the finish by reminding the delegates:

"We have responsibilities, one to another - we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves."

In the end, as it was planned to be, it was Paul Ryan's night.

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