Clint Eastwood Chair Stunt Upstages Mitt Romney

Romney, Rubio spoke to the nation. Eastwood? He had a chat with a chair.

August 31, 2012, 4:34 PM

Aug. 31, 2012 — -- Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio spoke to the nation last night. Clint Eastwood? He had a chat with a chair.

At issue in the aftermath: Did the "Dirty Harry" star's performance break the narrative thread of the convention? Or did his one-man show provide a welcome break from the sometimes suffocating choreography that characterizes most modern political events?

When asked earlier today, Paul Ryan played it coy, telling the NBC station WAVY, "Clint Eastwood will be Clint Eastwood."

Senior campaign adviser Stuart Stevens told reporters this afternoon he was watching with Romney backstage, and that the candidate "was laughing, thought it was funny."

The timing, though, has Republicans -- including some inside the Romney camp -- perplexed. There have been questions about why Eastwood was given such free reign in what is usually a presidential campaign's defining hour.

When asked if the campaign was eyeing the clock as Eastwood's bit dragged on, Stevens replied: "That would be a true statement."

The chair, Stevens conceded, had also been a bit of a surprise.

"I never discussed, I mean, about a chair. Don't know," he said. "This was an idea, a moment that moved him, I would say, and he went with it. You could see in this he hit points that he'd hit before in the [fundraisers] and [they] were good points. He just chose this narrative way to deliver it."

Another senior Romney staffer admitted to being in the dark about the empty seat.

"I mean, he just asked a prop person to bring a chair out and the prop person, I think, thought he was going to sit in it," the adviser said. "I don't know what happened [at] that moment. I know that a prop person brought the chair out. I just think this was something he wanted to do and he did it."

ABC News political director Amy Walter, who was in the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the show, said, "For those who say these conventions are just one, long, scripted infomercial, Eastwood proved they can still deliver some surprises."

But even taken as a welcome departure from the status quo, there's are questions about whether Eastwood's performance disrupted the timing and confused the content of the evening.

Eastwood's questioning of the "invisible Obama" has played to mostly positive reviews. Even Democrats, many of them mocking the stunt on social media, did so with a bit of a smile. Eastwood is an entertainer, after all, and he entertained.

President Obama's team tendered a cheeky response at half past midnight, and the social media scene has been flooded with photographs of "Eastwooding" for the world to see.

Check Out Who Was #Eastwooding Here

The convention's final "hour," because of Eastwood's prolonged dialogue, ended up stretching well past its scheduled 11 p.m. ET conclusion. None of the networks cut away but, as one Democratic strategist asked, "You wonder if people just went to sleep?"

Romney finished speaking at 11:13 p.m., but the falling balloons, the music, the families (adorable grandchildren tottering around the stage), are just as much -- some would say more -- a part of the show and part of the message the campaign was hoping to deliver.

Rush Limbaugh saw a conspiracy.

"The left, and this is predictable, they're destroying Eastwood," he said during his radio show today, "because they can't hit Romney, and they've gotta hit something. But Romney's speech doesn't have a whole lot hittable in it."

With reporting from Shushannah Walshe

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