Updated 11:07: Joe Biden warned Republicans not to bet against America. Anyone who has watched politics over the last few years could have added that it’s also a bad idea bet against Barack Obama when it’s time to give a high stakes speech. His address was a strong mix of a future oriented vision, aspiration, and an emphasis on the kind of values of work and fair play that appeal to independent voters.
Meanwhile no balloons drop--the speech was supposed to take place in an open air stadium--but the air is filled with confetti as the Obama and Biden families gather on the stage.
Updated 11:02: One thing that hasn’t changed—Obama’s emphasis on hope. He’s riffing now on what about America gives him hope. This is smart—as much as Americans want a leader who is honest about the tough times we are in, they want to know their president can see better days ahead.
Updated 10:50: On to fiscal matters and Obama uses a good bit of phrasing: “But when Governor Romney and his friends in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficits by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy—well, what did Bill Clinton call it? You do the arithmetic.” Note that tax breaks are now a form of spending—a neat bit of rhetorical jujitsu.
Updated 10:48: Obama going hard after Romney on foreign policy, simultaneously calling him dangerously inexperienced but also guided by a world view of “blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.” Then a couple of tougher shots: “You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent, my opponent said it was ‘tragic’ to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. Well I have, and I will.”
Updated 10:34: A good, funny sequence about the GOP’s stale ideas and lack of specifics: “Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years: ‘Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.’ ‘Deficit too high? Try another.’ ‘Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!’"
Updated 10:31: Obama starts strong on values, especially, again, the value of work. “My grandparents were given the chance to go to college, buy their own home, and fulfill the basic bargain at the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules--from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Updated 10:19: The Obama team gets their candidate’s biographical video (narrated by George Clooney and heavily featuring Bill Clinton) into prime time, something the Romney folks oddly didn’t do last week.
Updated 10:16: Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott liked Biden's speech. "He outlined all of the priorities and what we need to do going forward," Scott tells my colleague Lauren Fox. "He speaks from the heart. He has a profound appreciation for what middle class families are going through."
Updated 10:11: The Democrats are making a major point of mentioning and honoring the troops in combat abroad--which Romney neglected to do a week ago--including a somber, moving passage about remembering the nation’s “fallen angels.”
Updated 10:07: I think Biden slightly tripped over one of his best applause lines, about not betting against the American people. But watching the Republicans in Tampa last week I was wondering when someone would call the GOP out for saying that America is declining.
He also got a big roar for talking about helping the “private sector, not the privileged sector.”
Updated 9:55: And when Biden actually delivered the GM/bin Laden line, the crowd chanted it along with him.
Updated 9:50: Biden is giving the long-form version of his bumper sticker summation of Obama's case: General Motors is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead.
Updated 9:47: Biden: "A job is about a lot more than a paycheck." It's about dignity he says. This riff on the value of hard work has been sounded by numerous speakers over the last few days. It serves a threefold purpose: It places Democratic values squarely in the American middle class tradition; it beats back the GOP’s false charge that Democrats want to hand out money to people for doing nothing; and it implicitly contrasts the idea of blue collar values with those of Mitt Romney, the white collar financial wizard.
Updated 9:35: My colleague Lauren Fox, on the convention floor as Vice President Joe Biden gives his speech, relays that Texas delegate Celia Morgan hopes Biden "focuses on what we've done for small business and middle class families. Joe does a really good job of talking about what we can build together."
Updated 9:22: Michelle Obama is sitting in the first of two rows of unfolding chairs just below the stage, in front of it and to the right. Beau Biden is in the same section along with around 16 other guests. I wonder if this will serve as the convention equivalent of the first lady’s box, with Obama weaving the stories of her honored guests into his speech.
Updated 9:18: The Obama campaign has tried to capitalize all week on high profile speeches by sending out fundraising E-mails under the names of the speakers immediately after they have left the stage. Last night, for example, minutes after he got done speaking, “Bill Clinton” sent an E-mail marked “Absolutely urgent” asking supporters to donate $5 to the campaign. The president himself has gotten into the act tonight, with an E-mail going out under Obama’s name with the subject line “Before I take the stage.” He writes: “Before I go on stage to accept the nomination, there's one thing I need to say: Thank you. It's because you've got my back that I'm here. And if we win this, it will be because of you, too.”
The ask is getting bigger. While these fundraising E-mails have asked for $3 contributions for most of the campaign, they went up to $5 this week. Tonight, however, Obama wants people to kick in $15.
Updated 9:09: The Obama campaign is not holding back on touting the death of Osama bin Laden, from Kerry’s better-off-four-years-later line to other speakers to featuring it in a Tom Hanks-narrated video highlighting Obama and the military. How to handle bin Laden’s death has been one of the delicate issues the campaign has had to deal with. Apparently they’re feeling good about using it strongly.
Updated 9:00: John Kerry is feeling loose and feisty tonight, landing a series of strong one-liners against Mitt Romney. He suggested people ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off than he was four years ago. In a self-referential jab, he outlined Romney’s various stances on Afghanistan before concluding, “Talk about being before it before you were against it.” He said that “President Mitt Romney” was “three hypothetical words that mystified and alienated our allies this summer.” He even pulled out a Rocky IV reference, much to the delight of the crowd. And he got one of his biggest cheers when he scored Romney for not mentioning the troops fighting abroad when he gave his acceptance address.
Updated at 8:53: Charlie Crist, the former governor of Florida who was driven from the GOP by the Tea Party two years ago, just spoke to the convention, telling the crowd that he didn't leave the Republican Party so much as it left him. He noted that he'd gotten a lot of grief from his old party after he gave President Obama a welcome hug in Florida early in his term. There's a lot of speculation that Crist might run for governor again, as a Democrat. When Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida House member, had breakfast with U.S. News reporters last week, she studiously avoided addressing the question of whether he should run on the Democratic line. The crowd was warm but not ecstatic during Crist's speech, though they gave his peroration a rousing applause. That might have been why he dropped the kicker joke in his prepared remarks: "And if you see the president before I do, give him a hug for Charlie!"
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The crowd in the convention hall is charged up, having had a few warm-up highlights already. In the emotional highlight of the night thus far, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, accompanied by Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, hobbled out onto the convention stage and led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. After she left the stage, the crowd started a roaring round of “fired up, ready to go!” For just getting the crowd rocking, though, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been the show-stealer thus far. She delivered an old fashioned, bellowing, stem-winder complete with exaggerated gesticulations, wicked one liners—including a great one about how Mitt Romney loves his cars so much they get their own elevator but the workers who build them get the shaft. The crowd loved it, interrupting her at one point with a chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”