CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The bombastic, insulting and popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie keynotes the Republican Convention Tuesday night, following Ann Romney -- good cop/bad cop programming to showcase Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy.
Christie warmed up on Monday by bashing President Barack Obama during an appearance at a meeting of the California delegation. "The president is nothing more than a Chicago ward politician," he said.
And if that putdown did not sink in with the Californians, Christie said it twice.
"We've had enough of Chicago ward politics in the Oval Office. We need a real leader back in the Oval Office and we all got to work to get Mitt Romney there."
Republicans and right wing radio talk show hosts love hurling the ward heeler thing at Obama. I wondered what people make of it. I asked Wendell Walker, an alternate delegate from Lynchburg, Va., a landscape contractor, for his take.
"I don't know much about Chicago politics other than the fact that if you don't do what they say, you may not be in politics very long," he said.
"Is that really your impression?" I asked.
I followed up, asking if that argument will resonate with an undecided voter in Virginia.
"No, I don't think it is going to resonate," he said. There is better stuff.
People have had three years with Obama, Walker said, "and they are ready for a real change in leadership. So regardless of where you come from, or what agenda you bring, the American people are hurting. No jobs and there is no vision of hope."
Ann Romney is one of a string of Republicans addressing the convention the next three days. Each speaker is chosen for a reason: to appeal to a demographic, symbolize a cause or issue, or, (in the case of Rep. Ron Paul, a former presidential candidate) appease activist followers so they don't cause trouble.
Here's a rundown on what some speakers bring to the table:
♦ Ann Romney: Romney's wife has the ability to humanize her husband: tell people about how they fell in love as high school sweethearts, how he helped her struggle through her MS diagnosis and raise five sons.
She speaks as the campaign faces a major challenge of wooing female voters and as abortion has suddenly surfaced as a campaign issue, since Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's remark about how a "legitimate rape" would not cause a pregnancy.
♦ Vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan: Ryan may have the most at stake in his speech, because for many voters, this will be the first time they have heard from him since Romney put him on the ticket Aug. 11.
Sen. John McCain: The 2008 presidential nominee -- not often heard from in this campaign -- can be a powerful voice for Romney. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, does not have a convention role.
♦ Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rob Portman: Though they missed out as vice presidential picks, the two have a mainstream appeal and can speak to Romney's ability to run an effective government.
♦ Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Having survived his recall battle -- fueled by unions outraged over his stripping state workers of collective bargaining rights -- Walker is seen as an example of how government can take on unions and win.
♦ Former Sen. Rick Santorum: After savaging Romney at times during the heated GOP primary battle, Santorum can vouch for Romney's conservative credentials.
♦ Video tribute to Rep. Ron Paul: The Romney campaign agreed to a convention tribute honoring the failed presidential candidate who presides over an activist grass-roots network. His son, Sen. Rand Paul, a favorite with the Tea Party movement (activists who Romney needs to turnout in November), was awarded a speaking spot.
But putting out one fire may ignite another -- especially in Florida and other battleground states with Jewish populations. Paul is seen as so anti-Israel that when the Republican Jewish Coalition held a candidates forum in Washington, D.C., during the primary, Paul was not invited to participate. Democrats I talked to are poised to pounce.
♦ Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While former President George W. Bush will not be at the convention (there will be a video tribute) Rice can speak to moderate Republicans while vouching for Romney's foreign policy credentials -- a big resume gap. She also is two other things in short supply at GOP conventions: an African-American woman.
♦ Newt and Callista Gingrich: Gingrich can also vouch for Romney as a good conservative. I've seen many speeches where Mrs. Gingrich just stands there next to him. Hard to imagine what the optics will be of both of them on the podium if only one is speaking.