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Eastwood makes cameo at Romney convention

Clint Eastwood gave a speech at Mitt Romney’s Florida convention.

Hollywood actor and director Clint Eastwood speaks at Mitt Romney's convention in Florida. Picture: AFP

FLORIDA - Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood brought his star power and trademark gravelly voice to the stage of the convention hall in Tampa on Thursday, jetting in as a surprise last-minute speaker to warm up the crowd for Mitt Romney's acceptance speech.

Eastwood's cameo appearance, including an ad-libbed monologue with an imaginary Obama in an empty chair, seemed to thrill many in the audience, but was widely panned by observers across the political spectrum.

"Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic," legendary Chicago film critic Roger Ebert said in a message on Twitter.com. "He didn't need to do this to himself."

Former Romney adviser Mike Murphy tweeted: "Note to file: Actors need a script."

The 82-year-old Academy Award-winning director and actor, who endorsed Romney earlier this month, strode to the podium serenaded by the theme music from his classic western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Eastwood delivered an off-the-cuff, deadpan discourse, at times biting in its criticism of Obama, at times supportive of Romney's candidacy, whom he lauded for a "sterling" business record.

Many felt that Eastwood bombed on the political stage.

"What the heck is THIS?" Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod tweeted.

"A great night for Mitt Romney just got sidetracked by Clint Eastwood. Wow. That was bad," tweeted Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who currently does commentary for MSNBC.

Some in the audience, however, were left starry-eyed.

"He's a fabulous actor," said Rita Wray, a member of the Mississippi delegation, who praised Eastwood's "dry wit." She said she was a fan of his movies, though she couldn't name a single one.

It took some coaxing from the crowd, but Eastwood finally led the delegates in declaring "Make my day" - the signature line of the gun-slinging detective he played in the Dirty Harry movies.

Eastwood, a long-time Republican, has himself dabbled in politics. He served as mayor of his small upscale hometown, Carmel, California, in the 1980s.

Despite Eastwood's Republican affiliation, many of his views differ with the party. Though he has described himself as a fiscal conservative, he backs gay marriage, favours gun control and abortion rights and supports environmental causes.