Assessing the Conventions
Two weeks. Who won? Who lost?


Quin Hillyer
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have done a fairly good job presenting themselves as serious Mr. Fixit types who have the right experience and abilities to pursue a stronger overall economy. In terms of trustworthiness and likeability, both have improved their image. I think they need some work, though, in two areas. First, they still sound a little too much like specialists in what Jack Kemp called “root-canal economics” — too much about austerity, not enough about growth, opportunity, compassion, and hope. Second, I sense that many persuadable voters are approaching their decision almost as if they were a jury deciding a case: They want details they can understand, presented in a way that convinces them that the candidate’s approach will work. Without being too wonkish, the Romney-Ryan team can and should explain more effectively the “how” of economic recovery. Compared, for instance, with Bill Clinton, who did a great job Wednesday night of basically litigating the Democrats’ case, the Republican team has not yet convinced the juror-voters who will determine the election result.

As for the Democrats, they are doing a great job following the only path open to them: They distract attention from Obama’s record, attack the Republicans relentlessly, and distort the truth whenever necessary. So far, the approach has worked to keep Obama competitive. It is the only hope Democrats have — and it’s a hope that voters may well reward, as long as Team Obama stays within striking range.

— Quin Hillyer is a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a senior editor of The American Spectator.

Roger Kimball
The big winners of the two presidential conventions these past two weeks are . . . the American people. You may not see it yet (in truth, it’s not clearly visible yet), but the starkest ideological choice of my lifetime in American politics was consummately limned by both parties. One the one hand, you had the party representing the Founders’ vision of America: a country built on limited government and individual liberty. On the other, you had a vision of America built on unlimited government, where the egalitarian imperative everywhere trumped the agonistic spirit of free enterprise. Supporting props: on one side, “You did build that,” God-fearing decency, and a reverence for life, even the most helpless. On the other side, talk of “shared prosperity” — code for shared immiseration — and the spectacle of the rank-and-file booing the name of God.

Then there were the constantly iterated facts: the $16 trillion national debt, the 8.3 percent unemployment, the nearly 5 percent drop in median household income over the past three and a half years. The American people are the big winners because the choice before them could not be more dramatic and they will act in their own self-interest. Once the ensorcelling echoes from Charlotte die away, we will be left with a sobered electorate not a little chastened and more than a little frightened by those demagogic leaders who are more interested in creating green jobs than real jobs. Forget the polls: Romney-Ryan will win by a historic landslide, and the nightmare of the last four years, and the much greater nightmare looming in front of us, will melt away like a bad dream.

— Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and president and publisher of Encounter Books.


Kathryn Jean Lopez
The convention winner is yet to be determined. The Democratic convention wins some marks for honesty. The priorities of its leadership and the most enthusiastic part of its base were on full display. Their clients took the stage: NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood. They even put Sandra Fluke in prime time. That’s a political gamble. Many Americans do not believe that women are free only when not just contraception but also abortion are ubiquitous, and when anyone with conscientious objections to paying for these “services” has been forced to submit, under penalty of debilitating fines.

The advantage Democrats have right now is their obfuscation: They have cynically granted some faith-based institutions some time to get with the program — putting off full implementation of the HHS mandate until after the election. But make no mistake — it’s a radical ticket, with radical policy, driving a radically new definition of religious liberty in America. Romney and Ryan win if this story is better told. Kelly Ayotte helped with counter-programming this week in an informative web video about religious liberty. We need more Kelly Ayottes in the Senate and we won’t get them there — we won’t counter this worldview that’s currently got the majority of votes in Washington — D.C., if Americans aren’t relentlessly clear in the coming weeks about what just happened in Charlotte. Americans need to know how fundamentally hostile this administration has been to conscience rights, and that there is an alternative in the Romney-Ryan ticket and in sending their allies to both houses of Congress.

 Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.



Nick Schulz
The GOP has allowed its critique of government to become too narrow.

By focusing almost exclusively on debt and deficits, the GOP missed an opportunity to explain to Americans how government policy — specifically housing policy and the “bailout doctrine” — created the crisis that still haunts the American economy.

The American project is threatened by more-than-excessive federal spending. As Jim DeLong points out, it is jeopardized by a special-interest state whose scope is so boundless that it creates systemic problems for almost everything it touches.

Consider higher education. Democrats love to talk about the G.I. Bill. But there’s much more to say about government and higher education. Over the years, as it has tried to “fix” the problem of access to higher ed, government has been the catalyst of obscene tuition inflation; this is, of course, the new problem that supposedly needs “fixing” by government. Or consider health care. In “fixing” the problem of access to health care, government has been the driver of the health-care inflation that everyone now laments. The list goes on.

The wreckage of government policy is all around us. If the party of limited government won’t remind the American people, who will?

— Nick Schulzis the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor-in-chief of

Charmaine Yoest
This was the year the Democrats decided to host the abortion-palooza. Cecile Richards, the president of the world’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood, received a prime-time slot to speak. So did Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL, the group formerly known as the National Abortion Rights Action League. They were joined by a chorus composed of Caroline Kennedy and Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johansson, to name a few. It was fascinating to watch the spectacle. They are all so glossy. And so aggrieved. To hear them tell it, the Huns are at the doorstep. And yet Cecile Richards presides over a billion-dollar business that receives public tax monies that amount to over $1 million a day.

But the sense of siege goes even higher: Both Michelle and Barack Obama mentioned abortion rights with defiance and jutting jaws, as if this president’s term had not ushered in the passage of Obamacare, the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: The target market, American women, are actually more pro-life than pro-choice. As Ramesh Ponnuru reminds us, 46 percent of women told the Gallup organization that they are pro-life, while 44 percent describe themselves as “pro-choice.” Hardly a slam-dunk case for making abortion the organizing theme for a political convention and a reelection campaign. And then in the gauzy moment of swirling confetti — in the final last gasping breath of two weeks of speeches — history happened. Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan stepped to the microphone to provide closure. “We ask your benediction,” he prayed, “on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.” Calmly and simply, with utmost integrity, he demonstrated for a new generation what speaking truth to power actually looks like.

 Charmaine Yoest is president of Americans United for Life.