COMMENTARY | As if Mitt Romney and the GOP weren’t having enough troubles confronting them, what with Hurricane Isaac shortening their Tampa convention schedule and a Republican ex-governor of Florida endorsing President Obama instead of the party favorite, they are also contending with the revelation that most Americans are not interested in watching Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC) on Thursday evening.
According to Pew Research Center , it would appear that public interest in the GOP convention is comparable to the last two conventions. Interest in the party platforms are also in the majority. However, when it comes to hearing Romney’s acceptance speech, the numbers are down when compared to the last two.
A full 56 percent of respondents said they were not interested to watch/hear Romney’s acceptance speech. That is down from Sen. John McCain’s 52 percent and Gov. George W. Bush’s 53 percent.
The survey breaks the numbers down and finds that Republicans are just as eager to hear Romney as they were Sen. John McCain in 2008 but not as excited as they were to hear former Texas governor George W. Bush in 2000. But Democrats and independents are showing less interest in the speech than in previous years.
This does not sound too alarming in and of itself, but taken as an indicator of voter interest, potential voter turnout, and/or possible voter fatigue with the Republican Party, it could mean a great deal. Although it might not mean as much to see less interest among Democrats, it is significant among independents, considering that the number of Republican and Democratic voters tend to cancel each other out in the final polling. Independents become the swing vote that can make or break an election for a particular candidate.
Of course, the numbers could be misleading. The public is well aware of Romney and his run for the presidency. The primaries were a long, drawn-out affair and the ad campaigns, reports, and statements of the political parties, the candidates, their surrogates, and the media covering the election process have inundated television, radio, and the Internet. The majority showing disinterest may simply be a reflection of apathy derived from the assumption of having heard it all before. So why watch a formality?
Another element could be Romney’s known inability to connect with an audience. His speeches lack warmth, his approach is too formulaic, and he seems to lack the personal charisma to draw in an audience. If this is primarily the case with the disinterest in watching his speech, then there may not be much reason for concern.
There is always the possibility that, given today’s total access to information, many respondents in the survey took the question literally, knowing they could read or watch the speech afterward if they were so inclined. And then there will be the days of analysis and parsing by the media that always occurs, the developments of which some might feel give them all the information they need without having to sit through a boring speech when they can be watching a new episode of “Project Runway” on Lifetime or “Criminal Minds” reruns on Ion Television or the beginning of the college football season across the spectrum of ESPN channels.
Some will even wait to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert mine the event for a little comedy gold.
But if those survey numbers are a reflection of public disinterest in the candidate, Romney could find disappointment in November. And if accuracy happens to be the case, the GOP have a couple of options (in addition to their regular campaign strategy): Increase their efforts to motivate and get out the vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket and hope that the numbers are not a reflection of the registered voters that will actually turn out on Election Day and vote.
There is also one other possibility. The Pew Research Center survey asked if the respondents were interested in watching Romney give his RNC speech. There was no indication of which among those that were not interested that might watch the acceptance speech after all, interested or not.
Of course, Romney could get a few more to watch if he threw in at least a half hour’s coverage of the 90-minuteJourney concert that will be going on as a fundraiser during the convention.