It was supposed to be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's night.
But instead of basking in the afterglow of what many called a solid acceptance speech, the Romney campaign is now forced to deal with the aftermath of Clint Eastwood's rambling "empty chair" routine at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night.
In case you missed it, the octogenarian delivered a 12-minute ad lib where he unleashed a string of criticisms on an invisible President Barack Obama sitting in an empty chair on stage.
In the process, the actor/director-turned-politician stole Romney's thunder on a night when the Massachusetts governor was supposed to be the headliner.
And that's not good, political watchers say.
"I thought the idea of an old man talking to a chair was a little weird. The bad part of what happened yesterday is that Clint Eastwood in his own way upstaged Mitt Romney," said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University.
Given the narrow window before the Democratic National Convention -- which begins on Tuesday -- Eastwood's performance and the ensuing backlash on social media stole valuable time that the Romney campaign could have used to dominate the media cycle.
"I can't decide if it was amazingly clever or just crazy," said John Geer, chairman of Vanderbilt University's political science department. "Twenty-five percent of it is going to be taken up with the Clint Eastwood speech because it's more interesting."
Laughter, then confusion
When Eastwood walked on stage and began his Obama routine, the convention hall erupted in laughter and applause. Then his performance went viral. There were comments from everyone -- befuddled college kids and armchair pundits as well as snarky replies from celebrities.
"Clint Eastwood on the phone with Obama now: 'It all went according to plan, sir,'" Tweeted comedian Chris Rock, who has been an Obama supporter.
"Tomorrow you'll know Romney hit it out of the park when the media spends its time talking about Eastwood," responded conservative radio host Erick Erickson, who is also a CNN contributor.
The Twitter handle "@InvisibleObama" popped up within minutes of Eastwood's address, had more than 20,000 followers within an hour and has had more than 45,000 followers in the past 24 hours.
"I remember when anything was possible. Like 'invisible presidents,'" said one tweet from that account.
However, @InvisibleObama has been so popular that visitors to the page have been greeted throughout the day with a message that said "Account Suspended." Ironically, Twitter accidentally suspended the account likely because an unusual amount of "@" replies -- mentions about the account online -- triggered automatic spam filters.
While Twitter won't comment on specific accounts, @InvisibleObama appears to be sporadically up and running.
No laughing matter
But with just 67 days before Election Day, such distractions are no laughing matter, said CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
"I think it was rambling and I think it was a real mistake by the Romney campaign. I don't understand how they could really let that happen," Borger said after the speech. "I mean, you can't exactly give him the hook when he's -- when he's on the stage, but you have to set parameters."
Senior Romney campaign strategist Stuart Stevens downplayed the notion that Eastwood's "improv" would be a distraction to the candidate's message.
"The crowd loved it," Stevens said, adding that Romney had been backstage laughing along with the audience. "He thought it was funny."
"For him to go out there and to say that there's a need to change presidents and that he supports Mitt Romney, and talk about 23 million people out of work as he did, and talk about when someone doesn't do their job you need to change, that's a powerful message," Stevens said. "He's a great messenger. The guy is an American treasure."
The U.S. Labor Department, says there are 12.8 million unemployed people, not 23 million.
Eastwood, a longtime Republican, endorsed Romney at an Idaho fundraiser at the beginning of August, where he told reporters that he was backing the GOP presidential candidate "because I think the country needs a boost somewhere."
He endorsed Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Time Magazine humor columnist Joel Stein weighed in Friday on Eastwood's unscripted address on CNN's "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien. "I've been to eight conventions, that is the best moment I've ever been to at a convention," Stein said.