By Chris May

One of the challenging things about grading the headliners on any given night of a political convention is that it really is the proverbial process of comparing apples and oranges. I mean, if you’re a Phillies fan do you really love Ryan Howard any more than you love Chase Utley? Or can a music fan say with a clear conscience that the Beatles are miles ahead of the Rolling Stones?

Such is my dilemma in choosing an MVP (Most Valuable Performer) from the Tuesday session of the 40th Republican National Convention. But we know our contenders: Ann Romney and Chris Christie.

I’ll begin by saying I never fail to be amazed at the ability of a political spouse to give a speech on behalf of the person they love. They always rise to the occasion. And Ann Romney, no doubt, made the grade.

She quite literally bounced on to the stage. A ball of energy clad in Nancy Reagan-red with a beaming smile. She looked the part, and won the crowd over with ease.

As for the content of her remarks, I think she delivered. I keep hearing commentators say her job was to “humanize” her husband, an observation I find lazy and condescending. Her job was not to “humanize” Mitt Romney, but to deepen the public’s understanding of him as a person. And she did. Not with deeply personal stories, but with a full throated defense of the way he’s lived his life and the way he’s shared himself through the campaign. I expected her approach would be… softer. But she chose to be assertive. A Mama Grizzly, if you will (apologies to Sarah Palin).

As for Chris Christie, well, that was a powerhouse speech. It was not a love letter to Mitt Romney per se. But it was a testament to (in Christie’s view) the value of strong, responsible conservative leadership over poll-driven, everybody-gets-something-for-nothing governance (again, Christie’s view). It’s red meat to delegates, but it may also hold appeal to independent voters who don’t like the way the country is heading (have you seen the National Debt Clock in the convention hall?). Was the speech as much about Chris Christie as it was about Mitt Romney? Sure. But Romney doesn’t lose because he shares a brand with Christie. And Christie wins big, establishing himself in one 30 minute speech as a national political figure.

So for that reason I suppose I’ll hand tonight’s MVP to the New Jersey governor. Tuesday night was the start of something big.

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