Homecoming at the RNC

If the GOP Convention were a college, tonight would have been homecoming. The Republicans remembered two of their prom kings from the past, before turning the stage over to the man they hope will help them win the future…

"I had hopes once of addressing you under different circumstances,” Sen. John McCain said. “But our fellow Americans had another plan four years ago, and I accept their decision."

John McCain–the GOP's nominee in the last election–seems almost irrelevant this time around. And his words only reminded me of his decision to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.

"I remember the first time I went to the Oval Office as president, I was in awe…" former President George W. Bush said.

Given his unpopularity among all voters, maybe it made sense for him to appear at this convention in a video–and not in person. But Bush's absence also reflects a bitter truth about politics: even winning two presidential elections doesn't guarantee respect, much less a prime time live speaking spot.

Then the GOP packed-up the time machine and looked ahead.

Paul Ryan had a complicated task: trying to prove–all at once–that he's a man of big ideas and tough choices, but not so big and tough that voters should be frightened:

"Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems. And I'm going to level with you: we don't have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this," Ryan said.

Watching Ryan speak, you can see why Mitt Romney picked him for a running mate: he's young; he has a vision; and he's an unusual kind of politician: he's a nerd, with charisma.

But the biggest question about Ryan is: is he an extremist, outside the political mainstream?

His speech tonight said “no.”