Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thoughts on DNC

The first sets of tracking polls are beginning to reflect a bounce for Obama. In the vocabulary of pundits, it's difficult to know if this trend will prove 'sticky,' or endure for longer than a week but clearly the convention was well-received. The speakers were more passionate, direct, and effective than the ones on display in the Republican convention the week before. It's become a kind of standing joke, but seriously, can you remember anything that anyone said in Tampa other than what an empty chair was supposed to have said?

Michelle Obama revealed herself to be an amazing political speaker, subtly and deftly mining the deep emotional concerns of Democratic voters. It will also be interesting to see if the demographic shifts in Texas allow Julian Castro to capitalize on a great keynote speech.

Then we have Bill Clinton. Someone suggested to Obama that Clinton become the "Secretary of Explaining Stuff," which I think, in retrospect, was the one thing this administration needed all along.

The feedback to Obama's speech has been less laudatory. The comment I heard most frequently in the wake of the applause was "workman-like," and "free of detail." In truth, I think it was a fine speech but not one of his best performances. I also suspect this might be by design.

I'm guessing that Friday's disappointing unemployment numbers were not a surprise to the President. Thursday's acceptance speech struck me as a very measured response to continued shaky growth. Ask yourself for a second what would have made the greatest negative impact to the president's reelection? A mediocre speech acknowledging trouble ahead followed by Friday's numbers or a rhetorically lofty, pounding oratory followed by the thud of Friday's numbers. I would argue this speech was deliberately calibrated to avoid high contrast. The speech was not quite up to the level of Clinton's but it was also not a belly-flop.

The first rule of politics is do no harm. I'll take an unmemorable speech over gales of laughter at an empty chair any day.
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