One week after the event, it is clear that the Republican National Convention in Houston failed to produce the "big bounce" needed to put President Bush back in close contention. Any number of theories can be trotted out to explain this flat result: the lack of a convincing recovery plan in Mr. Bush's much-touted acceptance speech, the stridency of religious-right speakers in putting down whole groups of Americans, the attack on working women (as personified by Hillary Clinton) despite their increasing numbers, the whole issue of "family values" presented in a divisive, attack mode.
Whatever the answer -- and the continuing weakness of the economy may be closest to the mark -- Mr. Bush's disappointment is well-deserved. Houston was not a good convention, even in terms of hard-nosed politics. While it may have firmed up the president's core support, it turned off many voters he will need to win in November. Even GOP campaign manager Robert Teeter figures Mr. Bush is 10 points behind -- an imposing gap.
Perhaps the dynamics of a political party losing steam, unity and coherence doomed the Houston convention from the start. Such was the fate of the 1984 Democrats, when they perversely turned leftward at their San Francisco convention and ceded the center to Ronald Reagan, of all people. Activists on the fringes rise in power the more their party sinks into adversity, and Houston was no exception. The likes of Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were allowed a prominence that pushed the GOP rightward and was bound to hurt.