(CBS News) TAMPA, Fla. - For those who didn't think that Mitt Romney has had to overcome obstacles: Clint Eastwood. The actor's 12-minute turn onstage at the Republican Convention was rambling and distracting. He spoke to an empty chair in which he pretended the president sat. A few times he pretended the president had suggested he and Romney have intercourse with themselves. Obama spokesperson Ben Labolt suggested that, as counter-programming, the Democrats next week would have Salvador Dali. President Obama got in on the fun by tweeting a picture of himself sitting in the Roosevelt Room chair. (This seat's taken.) The convention that had seemed snakebit at the start, with Hurricane Isaac and tropical storm Todd Akin, appeared to be ending on the same cursed note.
But after the unplanned interlude, Romney made his case as a fix-it man who would return America to its first principles after its fling with the exciting, promising, but ultimately disappointing incumbent. It was a time for more realistic goals. "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," said Romney. "My promise is to help you and your family."
Romney made a promise, but the test of the speech is whether people believe it. Ann Romney talked about trust. Did he garner the trust people need to have to hand him the presidency? Mitt Romney's election has always relied on a two-part formula. Voters needed to feel disappointment in the president and feel like Romney has a plan. Part 1 was a gift waiting for any Republican nominee who could make it to Tampa. Romney gave a perfectly fine speech, but there were no breakthroughs on that second task. The race feels like it is going to return to the hard-fought bitter contest it was before Romney entered the Tampa Bay Times Forum and without much momentum for the slog ahead.
Romney entered the hall and walked the red carpet through the crowd as if he were a president about to deliver the State of the Union. He shook hands, pointed at friends, and stopped to hug Sen. Orrin Hatch, who earlier in the evening had told me about Romney "crawling in bed to cuddle his wife" when she had breast cancer. Romney didn't get to the cuddling, but part of his speech was intended to give voters an inroad to who he is. He talked about his father, the Michigan governor whom they called "brick" because he was so immovable. He told stories about unconditional love, his own parenting, and his love for his wife. The best line was: "If you ask Ann and I what we'd give to break up just one more fight between the boys, or wake up in the morning and discover a pile of kids asleep in our room. Well, every mom and dad knows the answer to that."