Obama's Polling Bounce Proves Conventions Still Matter

President Barack Obama reminded the American people why they elected him, and why he should get another four years.

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We are the change Barack wants to see. Obama just told us in his best speech as president. Apparently, we the American people like the sound of that, cosmic music to our souls—and polls.  

Why else is Obama getting such a bounce in the polls out of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte? He currently leads Republican leader Mitt Romney by roughly 52  to 46 percent, polls show. Romney had no such luck after his party convention in Tampa. In fact, Obama's new lead is the first tie-breaker since summer convention season ended. 

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Will Barack Obama's Convention Bounce Last?]

So for those who say conventions are passe in the Internet Age, it ain't necessarily so. People are political animals who need to feel the love—or lack thereof—in the room. Optics matter for the home folks, but so does standing shoulder-to-shoulder with friends you've haven't met yet from Wisconsin and Ohio in the room. The contagion of charged-up delegates going home energized to swing states is no small thing. You can't cheer, chant, clap, cry, hug, or dance online.

At the finale in Charlotte, Obama looked like the center of a pretty happy, inclusive family reunion. In Tampa, Mitt Romney and Republicans looked like "Father Knows Best" in an extended family full of cracks they tried to hide from the company. Paul Ryan and Ann Romney were show-stoppers. Romney gave the best speech of his campaign, marred slightly by the hollow Clint Eastwood. The showcase Latino speaker, Sen. Marco Rubio is a Cuban-American with a fierce anti-Castro stance who hardly represents Latino interests or dreams. That would be news to Republicans. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

So the post-convention lift for Obama was no fluke. It had more to do with serious Sandra Fluke, who was a law school student ridiculed by Rush Limbaugh for speaking out for reproductive rights. Now a law school graduate, Fluke's new voice fit in with a colorful array of Democratic convention speakers who smartly and sharply defined Democrats in opposition to Mitt Romney's Republican party. Yes, the war on women is on. The entire Democratic party brigade is taking this threat personally. 

So clearly, Obama did not change his weather report to sunnier skies just by himself. It took a village and Hillary wasn't even there—which worked out well better, because she may have inspired some buyer's remorse. More than most presidents up for re-election, Obama needed his party to rally to his side—and to have the nation actually see that happen. The diverse village—from civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis to the wounded former Rep. Gabby Giffords to the feisty Sen. John F. Kerry—embraced him in speech after moving speech, culminating in the masterpiece by revered former chieftain, Bill Clinton. Symbolically, as in an Homeric epic, the great man Clinton gave his blessing and staked his own street cred on the success of the younger warrior-leader.  

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Was the Democratic National Convention a Success for Barack Obama?]

These well-orchestrated strokes to the body politic are how Obama's fortunes rose across the land in polls. 

Because of this embrace, Democrats came to see Obama in context as one of their own and "owned" him again. The scene with Clinton probably played well with undecided voters who remember more prosperous days in the '90s.  Remember, Obama spent too much time in his presidency trying to court Republican cooperation, to no avail, as Bob Woodward reminds us in his new tome, The Price of Politics.  He did not court members of his own tribe assiduously. He especially neglected demoralized House Democrats who lost their majority in the Tea Party election of 2010, which foisted 87 hostile House Republican freshmen on him, as they came to town armed with arrows at the White House. This is the stuff of the debt ceiling crisis, Woodward's material.  

We are the change Barack wants to see. And here's the change we want to see in him: Make him a warrior who knows he can't make friends out of enemies. Ask the Big Guy about that. Then he'll see his poll numbers rise higher.    

  • Read Susan Milligan: Democrats Got a Backbone at National Convention
  • Photos: Mitt Romney Accepts GOP Nomination
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