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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Successful Spectacle

While we don’t know what kind of “bounce” Obama will get from the Democratic Convention, I think it’s safe to say that last night’s Invesco Field spectacle met every reasonable, if very high, expectation.
As I trudged endlessly through well over a mile of lines to get up to the metal detecters barring entry to Invesco Field (turns out it took two hours to traverse the 200 yards from my hotel), and then had to abandon my occupied nosebleed seat for one in the far high corner of the stadium, I feared that the magnitude of the event might be overwhelming its planners. But despite all the carping from Republicans about the “imperial” staging, it worked. The renowned Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales adjudged the massive show as perfect for the little screen:

This was Barack Obama’s big night, and it was the nation’s big night, too — one of those times that watching the screen you may have felt a connection to all the other millions of viewers watching in all the other millions of homes. It seemed that something great was beginning, and to paraphrase the name of an ancient TV news program, we were there.

Obama’s acceptance speech posed a crucial choice for his campaign: would he aim for the history books, or for a more conventional impact on the presidential campaign? He clearly chose the latter, and while the speech wasn’t as mesmerizing or tightly thematic as some of his past efforts, it was a very, very good campaign speech, likely the best delivered in an acceptance speech setting in decades. He systematically addressed every Republican attack line against his candidacy, but without sounding defensive, and obviously created some serious and immediate problems for John McCain. At National Review’s Corner blog, Jay Nordlinger said Obama’s line, “I’ve got news for you, John McCain–we all put our country first,” was “very, very effective–and pretty much sidelined McCain’s slogan.” Neutralizing your opponent’s slogan on the eve of his convention is a pretty big deal.
Yes, there was predictably some grumbling from various quarters about the alleged contradiction between Obama’s line-drawing and McCain-bashing passages, and the speech’s post-partisan coda. But look, folks, this has been Obama’s line of argument from the very beginning of his campaign: a corrupt GOP establishment beholden to narrow corporate and ideological interests is the primary obstacle to the task of addressing big national challenges that most regular people in and beyond the two major parties would like to see addressed. This speech was a pretty faithful, and unusually pointed, presentation of that argument. And it aimed right at the rotten center of McCain’s politically crucial claim that he, not Obama, represents “change” and a decent shot at the end of the long era of partisan gridlock.

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