Zell Miller may have undermined the GOP convention for Junior, ala Pat Buchanan in 1992. The speech was so hate filled, and his ranting on Hardball later that night made it appear as though he had become unhinged. (He appeared to challenge Chris Matthews to a duel -- video of that is supposed to be available at msnbc.com, but I haven't found it [UPDATE - a transcript of the Hardball exchange can be found here
(you have to scroll down), but it omits Zell challneging Chris to a duel; a transcript of a slightly lessed crazed Zell on CNN is here
Although I am sure that it played well in the Hall, and that the Fox viewers loved it, it is important to remember that the immediate reviews of Buchanan's 1992 speech were positive too. It was only after the echo chamber of the convention was lifted that the scariness of the speech were understood.
I can understand the theoretic appeal of Zell Miller -- he was a Democrat and he might be able to appeal to those people who don't quite feel comfortable with the GOP yet, by explaining, calmly rationally and even remorsefully, why he can't be a Democrat anymore. But Miller is a poor messenger for that -- he has sounded increasingly screechy, and if it was thought that he going to make a rational, calm argument by organizers, then no one had apparently been listening to him for the past year. (And, as a general rule, those Democrats who become Republicans are even more conservative and strident than the Republicans that they used to oppose. (See Phil Graham, Trent Lott and Richard Shelby.)
As for the reaction to Zell: Rich Lowry gave him only 2 stars on FOX last night, while Bill Kristol gave him 4 1/2 stars; Ramesh Ponnur has some questions he would like to ask Zell here
and appears to not have been very impressed; the New York Times called it "a memorably brutal attack"; and the USA Today said it was a "angry speech, delivered with a firm scowl" and "brutal". Andrew Sullivan declared that "[t]he man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude" and has ripped the speech apart here
While I don't think Zell is as bad a Pat was in 1992 (although it is close), I do think it will be the speech that is most rued, and maybe remembered, from the GOP's New York experience.
(Also feel free to read this story
on how John Kerry was a "authentic American hero" to Zell Miller, a mere three years ago, and an website devoted to all things Zell here
[UPDATE - More on Zell here