TAMPA -- Hollywood heavyweight Clint Eastwood made a scene-stealing appearance on the GOP convention stage before a welcoming audience Thursday night ahead of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech for his party's presidential nomination.
"I think it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem," said Eastwood, 82, who already endorsed Romney this month at a campaign fundraiser in Idaho. "When someone does not do the job, you have got to let them go."
Related story: Clint Eastwood's RNC speech ignites web trend
In an unusual speech for what is typically a scripted affair, Eastwood addressed an empty chair which he addressed as if President Obama was sitting on the stage. At one point Eastwood suggested the imaginary president had told him to curse at Romney. He criticized Vice President Joe Biden as "a kind of grin with a body behind it."
Reactions to Eastwood's speech overwhelmed social media. "Clint Eastwood became [a] huge star as a man of few words," tweeted NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw, an Eastwood friend. "As a surprise guest on the Tampa stage he had too many words."
Former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" said Romney's big night was "sidetracked" by Eastwood. On Twitter, a parody account @InvisibleObama had amassed over 10,000 followers before Romney took the stage.
While the remarks appeared awkward on television because it was unclear who Eastwood was addressing, he was warmly welcomed in the hall by the delegates. He closed out his remarks by saying, "Go ahead..." to which the hall chanted by, "Make my day!" in reference to his famous one-liner from the film Dirty Harry.
Eastwood has been an active Republican his entire adult life, although he has at times supported Democratic candidates and maintains liberal social views and supports abortion rights and gay marriage. During the 1980s, Eastwood was elected mayor of Carmel, Calif.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a friend of Eastwood's who has joined him at Republican fundraisers, spoke of Eastwood's popularity in conservative circles.
"Nobody messes with Clint Eastwood," Boehner said before Eastwood's speech. "He could make another half dozen movies before President Obama could get the unemployment rate below 8%. I'm glad he has Mitt's back."
The Academy Award winner drew headlines earlier this year when he was the voice of a high-profile Super Bowl ad for Chrysler declaring it was "half-time in America," which was perceived as being favorable to President Obama and the auto bailout his administration helped orchestrate. Eastwood pushed back and said he was not "politically affiliated" with the president.
By Susan Davis, USA TODAY
USA TODAY, Gannett