The Democrats had a very successful first convention night by just about any measure, something Republicans admit, even if they say fancy speeches won’t make people forget that the economy isn’t doing well.
Michelle Obama gave the best speech of the political season so far. It is not easy to give a speech like that. She had the emotion, the intonation, the pacing and the delivery down perfectly. That’s a capacity that you have to be born with and then cultivate with practice and coaching. Barack Obama married well!
The highlights of the night included a video tribute to Ted Kennedy which had priceless snippets of his 1994 debate with Mitt Romney (with criticisms and refutations valid yet today), a touching story from a woman named Stacy Lihn who came out with her husband and two daughters, including a two year old born with a congenital heart defect. She provided and moving and heartfelt story of how without Obamacare she’d have hit the lifetime limit for her daughter and could not have afforded the operations her daughter needs and likely will need in the future.
This is the Democrats most effective defense of the Affordable Health Care act — real stories from real people talking about what the change means for them, and what could happen if it were to be rescinded. Look for more of this. In the abstract the public is ambivalent about Obamacare, perhaps thinking the President should have waited. But if people start fearing what it would mean if it were rescinded, Romney would be pushed into talking specifics about what he means by “repeal and replace.”
The keynote address came from Julien Castro, and besides highlighting a rising star in the Democratic party and connecting with Latino voters, he told a very compelling family story of struggle, triumph and the American dream. When he turned to his mom and said he was proud of her, I suspect a lot of viewers reached for their tissues. It was moving.
One main Democratic theme was opportunity. They echoed Republican sentiments about the importance of hard work and perseverance to achieve the American dream, but rejected the notion that government can’t help expand that opportunity through education and focused assistance. Castro hit those notes perfectly, and unlike Christie’s odd GOP keynote, fit within the narrative and focus of the first night.
For those wanting a spirited and powerful defense of Democratic values, along with a direct refutation of Republican attacks, another rising star, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, delivered. In a rousing, emotional and spirited defense of what the Democrats stand for, Patrick energized the crowd. He also put in notice that he could be a player in 2016 — the Democrats have a deep pool of young talent.
Still, the night belonged to Michelle! She reminded people what they saw in Obama four years ago. She spoke of family, their values, and what kind of man her husband is. She was charming, humorous, and passionate. I am not going to describe it further, if you didn’t see it go on line and watch!
The only bad news for the Democrats is that fear of severe weather on Thursday is causing them to move President Obama’s acceptance speech indoors, meaning that over 50,000 people who held tickets for the outdoor event are going to be disappointed. I think it was a good decision. While no doubt the theatrics of a stadium filled to the rafters with cheering supporters would be excellent, and in a toss up state like North Carolina could make a difference to the outcome, a convention cannot leave anything to chance.
What if a lightning storm hit while the President was speaking? What if a spectator got hit by lightning, or high winds muddled the effect of the speech? That’s a risk they can’t afford to take. When one official said the other day that they’d be outside “rain or shine,” noting that the Carolina Panthers play in the rain, I couldn’t believe it. This is too important to muff up, that could make the RNC choice to let Eastwood go out unscripted look like a minor error by comparison.
For the Democrats, night one of the convention was a success. Whether that translates into greater momentum in the campaign remains to be seen. But as Michelle finished her speech I couldn’t help but thinking that Michelle Obama should consider following in Hillary Clinton’s footsteps and consider a political carrier after being First Lady — and how the last two Democratic Presidents have benefited immensely from having smart and talented wives.