Quote Of The Day: Michelle Obama Saved Democratic Convention
The political Quote of the Day comes from CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, a Republican who has served as an adviser to Presidents from both parties:
The Democrats should be enormously grateful to Michelle Obama: after a very slow start to the convention, punctuated by a moving tribute to Teddy Kennedy and his own rousing speech, the first evening was in danger of becoming an entirely lost opportunity. But Michelle rescued it.
She was extraordinary, talking in ways that were both conversational — always welcome in people’s living room — but also inspiring. She spoke in ways that reached out to people of all backgrounds. Democrats should be both proud and grateful.
The problem: each party has one shot to do a convention that quickly-embeds its key campaign message the minds of a) all who watch b) journalists who cover it so the conventional wisdom can be shaped in the party’s favor, c) talk show hosts, bloggers and other commentators the next day.
Call your favorite bookie now and place money on the GOP being on-message from second one. The Kennedy speech was a special, poignant historical moment made all the more dramatic due to news that it was 50-50 whether Kennedy’s doctors would give him permission to speak. But in hard-nosed political terms, it didn’t advance the party’s vote-getting or opposition-defining agenda.
Legendary Democratic strategist James Carville says the same thing but a bit more bluntly:
Speaking on CNN, Carville said the party was too soft in its attacks on John McCain Monday night — the same mistake, Carville says, Democrats made at the 2004 convention.
“The way they planned it tonight was supposed to be sort of the personal — Michelle Obama will talk about Barack Obama personally, Ted Kennedy was a very personal, emotional speech,” Carville said. “But I guarantee on the first night of the Republican Convention, you’re going to hear talk about Barack Obama, commander-in-chief, tax cuts, et cetera, et cetera.”
“You haven’t heard about Iraq or John McCain or George W. Bush — I haven’t heard any of this. We are a country that is in a borderline recession, we are an 80 percent wrong-track country. Health care, energy — I haven’t heard anything about gas prices,” Carville also says. “Maybe we are going to look better Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But right now, we’re playing hide the message.”
Will the party move out of unintentional “hide the message” mode? Will Bill and Hillary Clinton use their speeches to advance the party cause and Obama candidacy, or will their speeches largely be most newsworthy and quoted for what they say about each other or what pundits note they don’t say about Obama?
The bottom line:
Don’t. Expect. The. Republicans. To. Under-Use. A. Single. Day.
NOTE: Due to a technical glitch when posting the code was messed up the first version and the headline came out garbled in the second. We regret the errors and they’ve been fixed.
UPDATE: MSNBC’s First Read touches on this issue as well:
For Democratic partisans and those who love feel-good convention moments, it’s hard to see how the Republicans could duplicate last night, particularly with first-night speakers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (then again, they won’t try — instead they’ll keep their eye on the Obama ball).
As we’ve noted before, Obama has three goals at this convention: 1) making contrasts with McCain, 2) filling in his biography, and 3) uniting the party. Last night, the convention attempted to begin dealing with all three issues. Early in the evening, viewers were treated to a taste of some anti-McCain speeches; of course, only C-SPAN viewers may have received the full impact of those diatribes. As for the other two goals, between Kennedy and Michelle, the campaign can claim it made progress on unity (don’t the Clinton-Obama rifts seem petty after seeing Teddy?) and on biography (Michelle O. was as pitch perfect as she can be in presenting her story, but if there’s one critique of her speech is that it was more about her than Barack, but maybe that was the point.) As for the attempts to contrast with McCain, the GOP campaign and other strategists we’ve communicated with believe McCain went a lot more unscathed than, say, Obama will be after Night One of the Republican convention.