This week's speeches a the GOP Convention have been consistently rousing, and it seems that the rank and file party members are getting fired up and, for now, setting aside differences. On Monday Rudy Giuliani frankly acknowledged some differences over policy but left no doubt about his degree of support for the president, a very good sign that the "big tent" is holding firm. Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech last night was surprisingly effective, taunting the nay-sayers who lament this country's supposed poverty: "Don't be an economic girlie-man."
Senator John McCain and Former Senator Zell Miller sure gave John Kerry hell tonight. McCain showed class by criticizing the Swift Boat Veteran ads on general principles (he did not challenge their factual accuracy, however), and has at the same time restored his standing in the Republican Party after occasionally straying from its core principles in recent years. Miller has long been regarded as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, but he has flip-flopped on policies, and his criticism of Bush policies in recent years is worth a raised eyebrow or two. Vice President Dick Cheney followed up, scorning Kerry's "sensitive, multilateralist" approach to national security: "George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people."
The local Republican Party headquarters in Staunton opened its doors on Monday, and I took a couple photos of it for the swacgop.org Web site. Local members are enthusiastic and confident, especially given all of Kerry's recent contradictory statements on his Vietnam service and his policy flip-flops, but no one is taking anything for granted, not even in the "safe" territory of Virginia.