Oh, the benefits of going second. It’s not hard to imagine, after the Republican Convention last week in Tampa, Democratic leaders huddling somewhere to rewrite speeches, redo videos and shift the lineup to more effectively respond to the various charges and claims made by their opponents. I’m here to tell you that, whatever they did, it worked. Besides putting on a very entertaining show, the Democratic National Committee effectively made the case for President Obama’s re-election while, at the same time, energizing their base. My prediction is that the President gets a 7-9 point bump out of this, but we’ll see once the new polls come out.
Before I get to the winners and losers of the convention, I want to share the best moment to come out of either event, by far. On January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords held an event in Tucson, Arizona. Her “Congress on Your Corner” events were a great way for constituents to meet their Representative and have their voices heard. On this particular day, however, the meeting ended in tragedy with six people (including a 9 year old girl) dead and Giffords critically wounded. As anyone who has ever had or cared for someone with a serious brain injury knows, the path to recovery is long and extremely challenging. She has made very few public appearances since the shooting and none have had the power and emotion of what she did last night. Just watch.
Sure beats an empty chair as a lead-in to the party nominee! Ok, without further ado, here are my winners and losers from the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
- Bill Clinton
President Clinton has been delivering speeches for many many years and he is a master storyteller. When Clinton takes the stage, people listen and hang on every word. Love him or hate him, you have to admire his ability to captivate an audience and deliver key messages in an engaging and exciting way. The speech he gave on Wednesday night, nominating President Obama was, in my humble opinion, one of the best he has ever given. He was forceful, he was funny and he left no doubt about how he has seen the past 4 years and why he believes Barack Obama should be re-elected. As CNN Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said following the speech, “If Barack Obama gets re-elected, I think tonight will be a good reason why.” Hard to do better than that.
- Barack Obama
Watching the Republican Convention, one couldn’t help but wonder how much the party elite is really excited about the prospect of a President Romney. Many of the speakers seemed to be more focused on building themselves up for a future run, rather than making the case for Romney. By contrast, the Democrats are clearly excited about their ticket and that passion shone through in speech after speech. In addition, I thought Obama’s speech was very impressive. I left his speech thinking that this is a serious guy who has learned from his mistakes, but whose commitment to doing what he believes is right hasn’t wavered. I really liked the reframing of the “hope and change” arguement from 4 years ago and found it quite effective. Was it a soaring speech that Obama 2004 or Clinton 2012? No. But I don’t think it needed to be or, quite frankly, should have been. He needed to let the others do that, and come across as a leader we can trust. Which I think he did.
The other thing about the convention is President Obama came across as much tougher and stronger than I have seen before. We heard from Vice-President Biden about how he goes about making decisions and what a strong character he has. Biden told us that Obama “has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel” and we saw that in Obama’s speech. All of those traits were there and, when combined with his messages, Obama very much came across as someone who we can trust to work for all Americans and continue to make a difference.
- Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Jennifer Granholm
Aside from Clinton and Obama, these three leaders delivered the best speeches of the convention. Each focused on different issues, but all three were extremely effective in their defense of the President and convincing in their support for him. All three are going to play a critical role in the campaign between now and November 6 and all three delivered stirring and memorable speeches. Patrick (Romney’s record in Massachusetts), Kerry (Foreign Policy) and Granholm (Auto bailout) all made the point that Americans are better off today because of the leadership of President Obama and all made the the point that Governor Romney would be the wrong choice.
- Michelle Obama
Wow. Just, wow. Michelle Obama delivered an incredible speech that was beyond a simple endorsement of her husband. She told us more about the man, what drives him and, most importantly, connected his ideas and beliefs to their family and the future they imagine for their daughters. It was powerful, it was compelling, it was funny and it was effective.
- George W. Bush
It’s clear that Obama’s team see winning Michigan and Ohio as crucial to their chances in November. That’s why they focused so heavily on the Auto bailout and how many jobs that effort saved. What no one mentioned, however, is that President Bush was the one who first began to lay the groundwork for the bailout and, in fact, authorized the first loan to Detroit. The fact is that the bailout worked, but the facts are, also, that Bush deserves some of the credit.
- Martin O’Malley
The Governor of Maryland is often mentioned as a potential 2016 Presidential candidate. However, he did not do himself any favors with his convention speech. The Republicans want to make this election a referendum on the past 4 years and, as such, are making the argument that Americans are worse off than they were when President Obama took office. Leading into this convention, the Democrats had primarily tried to counter that argument by attempting to make the election a choice election – that is, putting the Obama/Biden plan alongside the Romney/Ryan plan and asking Americans which one works best for them. However, in Charlotte, there was a much more forceful argument that we are, in fact, better off than we were 4 years ago. It’s important because if they can defend both their record and promote their future plans effectively, there is no way Romney can win.
However, in a pre-convention interview on Face the Nation, Governor O’Malley undercut that message when asked by host Bob Schieffer if he could ” honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?” In response, O’Malley said “No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit cards.” It may have been honest and it may have been an attempt to link Romney to Bush. But, as a result, O’Malley had to spend the convention backtracking and that’s not a position a 2016 candidate wants to be in.
- Charlie Crist
Party changers are rarely well received at conventions, but Crist’s speech was embarrassingly bad. It was such a transparent attempt to further his own political ambitions and those in the hall saw right through it. I have no idea if Crist will help Obama win Florida by appealing to moderates but his speech last night didn’t do the President any favors. As bad as Artur Davis was last week at the RNC, Crist was worse because he was clearly only speaking to help set himself up for a Gubernatorial run as a Democrat. Not good. Not good at all.
- Platform Committee
The party platforms are rarely read and the news media, generally, only spends time talking about them if there is something controversial or different. The fact that the RNC platform is anti-abortion, with no exceptions, was newsworthy and will become an issue in the campaign. The Democrats made the decision to not mention God, and to not endorse Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Then, after some backlash from both inside and outside the party, the committee made the decision to add that back in. This resulted in some awkward moments where, when the change was announced, there was scattered booing in the hall. Likely the delegates were booing the fact that a change was being made, but it gave the appearance (as hyped up on Fox) that they were booing God. Whatever the truth, it was not a good image for the party.
Before I let you go (and kudos if you’ve read this all the way through) I want to leave you with two videos. I think it is ENORMOUSLY important that all Americans, regardless of where you may stand, see the speeches from both Presidential candidates. Please set aside some time to watch – it’s important to know where they stand and what their vision is for the country.
History was made yesterday. The House has sent to the President’s desk the first piece of meaningful health reform in decades. This is not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way towards taking the power away from insurance companies and giving it to people and their doctors. This bill will finally allow more than 32 million Americans to get health insurance. This bill will reduce the cost of getting health insurance and, through subsidies, ensure that everyone will have access to care. This bill will create millions of jobs, pays for itself and will reduce the national deficit. This bill forces insurance companies to stop their discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and will stop the despicable practice of coverage being rescinded when someone needs it most. This bill will ensure that being unemployed doesn’t mean you can’t have health insurance. This isn’t a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will improve the economy and help millions of Americans. Thank you to all those who made its passage possible.
A few take-aways from the debate and vote last night:
- The Democratic party showed it can be politically savvy as well – Republicans had proposed a roll-call vote on the bill so that they could use that footage in campaign ads, but were rejected. In addition, the House leadership knew that the Republicans might try to send the bill back to committee (effectively killing it) by calling for a vote on re-inserting the Stupak anti-abortion language back into the bill. Well, they were right and boy were the Democrats ready for it. After Steny Hoyer made a brief statement in response to Republican speeches on the matter, he yielded his time to Bart Stupak who made a passionate argument against killing the bill causing his fellow Democrats to rise as one to cheer him. It was a brilliant speech and helped ensure the Republican plan would fail. Very effective and very well executed!
- The Republican Party, once again, has to deal with an embarrassing incident – 6 months ago it was Joe Wilson shouting “You lie” at the President. Over the summer it was those awful town hall protests around the country. Two days ago it was anti-healthcare protesters shouting racist and homophobic things towards members of Congress. And yesterday, it was a Republican Congressman shouting “Baby Killer” at Rep. Stupak as he delivered his remarks on the House Floor. This stunning lack of decorum and respect might energize the base, but it turns off the moderate voters who so often decide elections. Yesterday’s outburst was especially unfortunate because the Republicans had done a very good job throughout the day highlighting a number of their members and make significant progress in ensuring that the voice of their party would not be Ruth Limbaugh. But that will be overshadowed by a stupid and inappropriate outburst.
- No one kills time like Wolf Blitzer – For anyone who has spent any time watching CNN over the past few years, this statement will come as no surprise. Waiting as the vote totals climbed to the magic 216 number, Blitzer bantered, questioned and cut off as appropriate to keep things entertaining while making sure viewers did not miss the key moments. Well done Wolf.
So now the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate (that should be fun) and the main healthcare bill goes to the President. Stay tuned…
Really? We are upset because Sesame Street mocked us a little? Come on people! It was a joke and they mocked that left network also. Look, like it or not, you at Fox News have a reputation and it shouldn’t be a shock to you that people might mock you for it. Just like they mock Obama for his (really) big ears. Teasing people or institutions in the public eye is one of the oldest professions there is and, as long as it doesn’t cross the line to personal attacks, it is funny. The mark of someone confident in what they are doing or who they are is someone who can laugh at themselves. Start laughing Fox…or just ignore it. But please don’t make it into a news story – especially not 2 YEARS after it originally aired!
What’s next? Are we going to get mad when Cookie Monster eats some veggies in addition to his cookies? What’s that you say? He already did? And it was controversial? Ok then.
Thanks to Becca for the link!
Celebrating the loss of the Olympic bid? Certain Conservatives have really outdone themselves on this one. It is amazing that we are so partisan where even the merits of an Olympic bid is split down ideological lines. What they seem to have forgotten is that the Olympics should be a time where people could set aside their differences and compete for athletic glory. Naive? Maybe. But the fact remains that this bid was not a Democratic bid or an Obama bid. This bid represented the American Olympic Committee – it was an American bid. This was not a loss for Obama or a loss for Chicago. This was a loss for America. Celebrating an American loss is not patriotic. It has been said for many years that big electoral problem that Democrats had was that the Republicans “had the flag.” Well, those cheering this loss lose their right to claim the flag. The games being in the USA again, and in Chicago, would have been an incredible opportunity for us to remind the world that we are more than an army. It would have been a fabulous thing for this country.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear what George W. Bush had to say about the prospect of the games being in this country again.
They say that the Olympics will come to Chicago if we’re fortunate enough to be selected, but really it’s coming to America, and I can’t think of a better city to represent the United States than Chicago,” Bush said. He added, “This country supports your bid, strongly.” You can see the full article with that quote here.
Sir, I am sad to say that you were wrong. The country does not support the American bid. There is a segment of your party that wants Obama to fail at anything. Even if it means costing the USA the glory (and stimulus) that comes with hosting the games. Very very sad.
I’m going to give Roland Martin the last word here.
So, to all the critics happy about us losing the 2016 games, turn in your flag lapel pins and stop boasting of being so patriotic. When an American city loses, like New York did in the last go-round, we all lose. And all you critics are on the same level as the America haters all across the world. You should be shouted down for not backing your own country. The next time any of you bang out a press release about “Buy American” or “Support our troops,” remember this moment when your cynical, callous and small-minded brains happily rejoiced when America lost the 2016 Olympic Games.