Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night came as a surprise to the Romney campaign, but his from-the-hip remarks are seen as the actor just being himself, the Washington Post reported.
Romney privately invited Eastwood to speak after getting his endorsement at a Sun Valley, Idaho, event earlier this summer.
“He just made my day. What a guy,” Romney joked with his donors that night, according to the New York Times
“He really wowed both audiences in Sun Valley and could not have been more gracious to the attendees and to Mitt Romney and to the staff,” a fundraiser told the Washington Post.
Leading up to the convention, the campaign worked on making the Eastwood cameo happen and was given the green light by Romney’s top two campaign aides, Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens, the Times reported.
They drew up talking points for Eastwood, which he used in his own way in front of 33 million viewers.
Still, when Eastwood asked for a chair, moments before he approached the podium, stagehands thought he was going to sit down. Instead, he used it to address an invisible President Barack Obama.
“Fans that night may have expected to hear from “Dirty Harry”: the cool, controlled enforcer, as deft with a quip as with a gun, effortlessly and eternally hip,” the Post wrote. “Instead, they got something closer to Walt Kowalski, the grizzled old cuss of Eastwood’s 2008 “Gran Torino”: raw, unpolished, a little angry and suddenly much older than you realized.”
Romney aides were taken by surprise by the off-the-cuff performance.
Eastwood, 82, had gone over the talking points with campaign advisers and sketched out some rough remarks but prepared nothing for the teleprompters, which was common for Eastwood, the Post reported.
Eastwood, an occasional Republican voter who allies with many socially liberal causes, pretended to have conversation with Obama seated by his side.
“What do you mean,’Shut up?’” Eastwood asked the president. “What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney?”
“I can’t tell him that. He can’t do that to himself,” Eastwood said. “You’re getting as bad as Biden.”
Inside the Tampa convention hall, the crowd roared with delight, but the reaction was quite different among television analysts and on Twitter.
“He spoke from the heart with a classic improv sketch which everyone at the convention loved,” Stevens, the campaign aide, told the Times, calling it “an honor that a great American icon would come and talk about the failure of the current president.”
Ann Romney, asked about it on “CBS This Morning,” admitted she “didn’t know it was coming.”
Despite concerns Eastwood might have stolen the show from Romney, and not in a good way, the Romney campaign said it was grateful for his support, no matter how bizarre a spectacle it turned out to be.
“This was an idea, a moment that moved him, I would say, and he went with it,” Stevens told the Post.
Stevens told the Post that Romney, standing backstage, laughed throughout Eastwood’s talk.
“For him to go out there and to say that there’s a need to change presidents and that he supports Mitt Romney and talk about 23 million people out of work as he did, and talk about when someone doesn’t do their job you need to change, that’s a powerful message,” Stevens told the Post.
Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, told a Virginia TV station, “I think Clint Eastwood was just being Clint Eastwood.”
A former mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., Eastwood briefly was considered in 1988, by George Bush as a running mate, according to the Times. Bush picked Dan Quayle instead.
Eastwood endorsed Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, yet said he felt good about Obama’s election, according to the Post.
“I thought: ‘Well, that’s cool. . . . That’ll be nice for the country and maybe it’ll settle down a lot of racial issues.’ ” Instead, “it kind of went the other way,” he said.
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