Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was never shy about his desire to be Mitt Romney's running mate, so it was kind of sad, this morning, to see him forced up onstage to give the introduction at Paul Ryan's unveiling. Also, nobody watching or in attendance wanted to hear from Bob McDonnell in the least.
The setting was a stage situated directly in front of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, a decommissioned battleship now serving out retirement as a museum in Norfolk, Virginia. Why do this in front of a battleship? Unclear. If there were ever a campaign less focused on war and foreign policy, it is the Romney-Ryan ticket in 2012.
When McDonnell's tragic intro was complete, Romney emerged from the Wisconsin to some patriotic fanfare, which happened to be the soundtrack from Air Force One. Romney spent much of his short speech boasting of Ryan's character, sometimes in comically overwrought language. "Paul also combines firm principles with a practical concern for getting things done," Romney said at one point. "He has never been content to simply curse the darkness; he would rather light candles." I hope you dance, Paul Ryan.
Today represents something of a fresh start for Romney's struggling campaign, and he has every reason to be excited. However, he was perhaps a little too excited for his own good by the time he introduced Ryan. "Join me," Romney announced, "in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan!"
The music swelled again, the crowd cheered, and Ryan emerged onstage, joining Romney in a session of smiling and lazy, indiscriminate waving. Romney went to his seat, but upon being informed by Ann of his error, returned to the microphone just as Ryan was set to begin his speech. "Every now and then I’m known to make a mistake,” Romney said, sheepishly. “I did not make a mistake with this guy. But I can tell you this, he’s going to be the next Vice-President of the United States." If it makes him feel any better, Barack Obama, bizarrely, made the same mistake when introducing Joe Biden in 2008.
Not the most auspicious start, but Ryan went on to rile up the crowd with a solidly delivered speech about the need to "make difficult decisions," something Romney has studiously avoided in his campaign so far, but won't be able to now that his candidacy is tied, for better or worse, to the controversial Ryan budget plan.
Ryan ended his speech with a shout-out to the GOP ticket's new self-coined nickname. "I’m excited for what lies ahead and I’m thrilled to be a part of America’s Comeback Team." Will this be the start of a comeback for the Romney campaign as well? Stay tuned!