In 2008, an aggressive candidate Barack Obama told supporters to “argue with them, get in their faces.” In 2012, Republicans are taking a page from Obama’s book, holding a “counter-convention” outside the Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC. While Republican nominee Mitt Romney will be keeping a low profile all week, his party is taking the fight straight to the gates of the opposition.
The “counter-convention” will feature GOP leaders–including Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Gov. Nikki Haley (SC), and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus–among fifty Republican “communicators.” There will also be zany, street-theater tactics–such as “You Build It” Legos and a NASCAR race car emblazoned with the number “12.”
The Republican Party has never done anything like this before, and is showing an ability to adapt both to the new media era and to the Alinskyite “community organizing” tactics of Obama himself. Amidst the fun and fanfare, the counter-conventioneers will push a pointed message, asking Democrats and Americans in general whether they feel they are better off than they were four years ago–a key question in re-election campaigns.
Democrats had planned similar tactics at the Republican National Convention. Vice President Joe Biden, for example, was to have addressed a rally in Tampa on the first day of the RNC, but the event was canceled (as was the first day of the convention) due to concerns about the possible impact of what was then Tropical Storm Isaac. Later, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz turned up, together with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) and DNC speaker/contraception activist Sandra Fluke.
Wasserman Schultz and her colleagues, however, showed little stomach for debate or confrontation, and sought out friendly liberal or mainstream media outlets. Their goal was evidently to send a message of strength to their core supporters, not to challenge Republicans for the attention and trust of independent voters watching the convention.
The deadlocked race for the presidency in 2012 is fast becoming a test of wills. Obama has crossed new red lines in American politics with his negative tactics against “felon” Mitt Romney. Romney has been criticized by his own side for being slow to respond–but the counter-convention is a sign that the gloves are off and the fight has only just begun.