The Democrats had three goals for their convention this week in Charlotte, NC: to defend President Obama’s record, to convince voters that the Republicans plan to take the country back to the dark days of the Bush administration, and to make the case that with four more years of Obama at the helm, we will continue to slowly work our way out of the present economic slump. I give the Dems an A+ on achieving the first two goals and a B on the final, perhaps most important goal. They also get extra-credit for showcasing veterans and patriotism.
Bill Clinton’s full-throttle defense of the Obama presidency was without question the best speech of the convention, perhaps the best speech of his entire career. He arrived to a hero’s welcome and spent 48 minutes defending the Obama administration and the Democratic agenda more generally with detailed and robust policy wonkery, infused with the Clinton charm.
That speech accomplished in less than an hour what Axelrod and the gang have been trying to achieve for more than a year: explaining just how bad the situation was on Obama’s inauguration day, assuring the public that no president could have restored the country to full employment in just 4 years and dismantling the legitimacy of the Republican plan to “double down on trickle down.” He effectively highlighted the profound lack of policy detail on display in Tampa last week and called out the GOP for rejecting a long history of compromise in favor of rank partisanship.
While Bill was by far the highlight of the convention, Michelle Obama’s warm and passionate tribute to her husband was a close second. Her speech functioned as an attack on the Romney campaign, albeit a subtle one. Mitt Romney has struggled to convince the electorate to like him; his profound wealth has created a barrier between himself and the average American that has been hard to overcome.
Although Ann Romney did an admirable job last week trying to assure voters that Romney shared their values and could be trusted with the presidency, Michelle Obama’s narrative of her husband’s humble roots had the effect of showcasing the stark difference between the life experiences of these two candidates. Obama has consistently been more “likeable” than Mitt Romney, according to polling data, and Michelle’s speech served to cement that impression.
Indeed, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama wooed not only the political commentariat across the spectrum, but apparently had a profound effect on the electorate as well. The Gallup daily tracking poll shows a significant jump in Obama’s approval rating after those two delivered their prime-time addresses. According to today’s numbers, which were taken September 4-6, President Obama’s approval rating jumped 3 points to 52% and his disapproval rating fell 2 points.
Vice President Joe Biden also made an impassioned defense of Obama. Although Biden is often known only for his “gaffes”, his speech last night showed some real muscle. He told his own story of growing up in a middle class family that struggled and of working closely with Obama to focus on how policies affect the average American. He reminded voters of how courageous it was for Obama to order the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. His pitch was clearly designed to reach out to working class and middle class white voters, a group the Obama campaign has had trouble with this election cycle. He did that effectively.