Best and worst convention addresses: How will Gov. Chris Christie measure up?

Sarah Palin
Then-Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, speaks during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

(CBS News) The Republican National Convention speaker New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be looking to fire up the Republican base in Tuesday night's keynote address - and perhaps change his own political future.

Republican Convention 2012: complete coverage
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But there's an art to creating a memorable convention speeches that hit just the right tone. History has shown that it takes emotion, passion, humor and, of course, exceptional delivery to hit the mark.

At the 1976 Republican Convention, it was an impromptu speech that caught the moment and brought the delegates to their feet, given by Ronald Reagan after he narrowly missed winning the nomination.

Reagan said then, "We have got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry the message they are waiting for."

In 1984, as Reagan was running for re-election, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo boldly challenged Reagan's vision of America as a "shining city on a hill" in the Democrats' keynote.

"There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit, in your shining city," Cuomo said then.

Historians call it a landmark speech. It catapulted Cuomo into consideration as a presidential candidate, but his indecision about entering the race earned him the nickname "Hamlet on the Hudson."

In 2004, Barack Obama also became an overnight sensation after his convention speech.

"I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible," he said.

Just four years later, Mr. Obama accepted his party's nomination.

Sometimes it's the humor that makes for a memorable speech, such as Texas Gov. Ann Richards mocking George H.W. Bush, the Republican standard bearer in 1988. Richards told fellow Democrats that year, "Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

And Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008 said, "You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

And sometimes, it's the bad speeches that are remembered. It's hard to forget Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton's 1988 performance. Clinton was allotted 15 minutes, but spoke for more than a half an hour, saying at one point, "Mike's old-fashioned all right. He's the kind of man who plays it straight and keeps his word and pays his bills."

And when he signaled that he was almost done by saying "in closing," the audience broke into cheers. But though the speech was a flop, that didn't stop Clinton from winning the presidency in 1992.

On other occasions, a speaker's message may not fit with a nominee's theme. Pat Buchanan hurt George H.W. Bush with a divisive message in 1992's Republican convention that came to be called "the culture war speech."

Buchanan said, "The agenda ... Clinton would impose on America - abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat - that's change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America needs. It's not the kind of change America wants."

And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - another keynote speaker - fell flat in 2008 when he attacked then-presidential candidate Obama.

Giuliani said, "Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada."

Christie's chance to help both Mitt Romney and himself is Tuesday night. He can be blunt, tough and funny on Romney's behalf - and he has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase himself and advance his political future.

Watch Bill Plante's full report in the video above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent