The Democratic Convention in Charlotte, which was to be dull, boring, and devoid of drama and excitement, did not turn out that way.
It is usually the challenging party that has the advantage, particularly in a year when voters are worried, hurting, and tilt heavily toward the view that things are off on the wrong track.
But in 2012, it did not turn out that way. The Republicans had as their defining moment Clint Eastwood's rant, not Mitt Romney's acceptance. They had a Paul Ryan speech replete with falsehoods and attacks that were just plain wrong, a gift that kept on giving for the Democrats. They had speakers like Gov. Chris Christie who seemed more focused on 2016 than 2012.
The Democrats, in contrast, had a tight convention that was disciplined and upbeat.
At the end of the day, here are the five things the Democrats accomplished:
Motivated the base. The speeches made clear the importance of this election to the party faithful. Michelle Obama, in particular, made the case for her husband and gave an emotional, personal speech. People at home and in the hall left with the motivation to make the phone calls, knock on doors, walk the precincts. In a close election, this is critical.
Brought the party together. The various constituencies of the party were in full evidence. Working people, union members, women, Hispanics, African-Americans were all convinced that there are real differences in the Romney-Ryan platform and what the Democrats stand for and how they govern. The radical nature of the Republicans was made crystal clear.
A blistering critique of Republicans. Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Jennifer Granholm, Deval Patrick, Ted Strickland, Sandra Fluke led the charge in laying out how out of touch the Republicans are on social issues as well as economic issues. This coordinated approach repeated the core criticisms over and over.
A coordinated message and speakers who were in sync. Who stands up for working families was clear. The message discipline for Democrats was consistently in evidence, which is not always the case. Speakers played off one another, made clear the accomplishments of the president in both domestic and foreign policy and drew the comparison with the Republicans. The fight for middle class families was the mantra as opposed to the tax and budget plans that would benefit the wealthy that the Republicans propose.
Set the stage for the fall campaign. The convention and the President's speech set the stage for the next two months and the debates. The president in his speech not only defended his record an criticize the Romney-Ryan approach, but he redefined what American citizenship should mean. He put in perspective what government can and cannot do, what is in the public's interest, what is needed for the long term. He provided a sense of stability and confidence in his leadership.
Will there be huge changes in the polls from this convention? I doubt it, just as there wasn't much from the Republicans. The conventions were so close to one another and so late in the game that we will probably move deadlocked into the final two months of this race is my guess.
But the messages are taking shape and the debate is clear, and the Democratic Convention did more than the Republican convention to sway independents and motivate the base.
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