Telling that there are no answers. I've watched a scant bit of RNCs, but I'll weigh in and say Zell Miller's speech in 2004, when he railed against John Kerry's voting record against increased defense spending. "This is the man who wants to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what, spitballs?" Got a great laugh, was a masterful zinger, and made me hate him intensely. Sell-out swift-boater!
I second Zell Miller. Granted, 2004 was the first election I was old enough to vote in, but that speech was just masterful. Bonus: Miller challenging Chris Matthews to a duel after the speech.
I will always remember Jeanne Kirkpatrick's great speech in 1984. I was never a fan of hers due to her unthinking Anglophobia, but she got it just right that day, and her description of Democrat thinking - "Blame America first" - still rings true today.
George H.W. Bush's acceptance speech in 1988, written by Peggy Noonan. Helped, along with the rest of that convention, to turn around the polls, despite the poor choice of Dan Quayle for VP candidate. After the Democratic convention nominated Dukakis, Bush trailed by 17 points in the Gallup Poll. After Bush's acceptance speech, he never trailed the rest of the way, and won a comfortable 53-46% victory, carrying 40 states. He was the last Republican nominee to exceed 51% of the popular vote. Of course, the electorate was much whiter in 1988 than it is today; it would be very difficult for a Republican to top 53% today, given that the white percentage of the electorate has fallen to about 72%,
I'm not saying this is one of my favorite speeches...but the last 90 seconds of McCain's speech in 2008 is utterly fantastic. Short, declarative sentences spoken by a man who you know means every word.
At The Washington Post
At The American Prospect