DENVER—In case you weren't sure, Barack Obama is one of us.
Obama's speech this evening addressed three issues—Obama, McCain, and the nitty gritty, and did it well.
Obama needed to place himself squarely within the Middle American identity—show that he is one of us, not a strange other and not beholden to the needs of a special interest (be that race or the broad collection of what Republicans call the Democratic client groups). He made connections between his own family and the kind of every family with whom swing-voting Americans can identify: "Because in the face of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI bill." (Marched in Patton's Army? He makes Patton sound like a Civil War or Revolutionary War general.)
This was the first of several refrains connecting the Obama experience with the American experience, culminating in a direct shot at the GOP's main line of recent attack: "I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me."
Obama made McCain a co-star of this speech, repeatedly contrasting himself with his opponent, trying to do so without actually crossing the negativity line into grating crassness. Of course it's easy to look like an adult when your opponent has been accusing you of treason, but it's still not clear whether being an adult is a winning strategy.
And finally, Obama got into the nitty-gritty, answering criticisms that he was high in the sky but couldn't put details onto the airy rhetoric about change. (It's easier to bring the speech down to the ground when the ground is a mile high.)
Bonnie has been arguing that Obama is too liberal but his biggest problem has not been ideological but personal. (See item number one.) But—having placed himself in the mainstream—Obama laid out an agenda for an activist government that can appeal to blue collar, middle class, and/or swing voters:
"Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves—protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and new technology."
The message is one of personal responsibility—the government will help you but it won't do your work for you—that any Democrat needs to communicate in order to get elected.
Obama knocked the ball out of Invesco tonight ... and straight into John McCain's court.