Tonight is the biggest night of President Barack Obama’s last campaign. After two nights of diversity and classic Democratic Party politics, the president will take the stage indoors to avoid the chance of thunderstorms. This last-minute change means there will be no balloons coming down from the ceiling — but it will provide a clear way to compare his speech with Governor Romney’s last week.
The list of speakers tonight includes at least one name that would have shocked people in 2008. Four years ago Charlie Crist was talked about as a possible candidate for president in the Republican Party. Tonight he takes the stage as the second former Republican governor to speak at the convention.
Here’s some of the speakers we’ll see:
Tammy Baldwin, member House of Representatives (D-WI) and U.S. Senate candidate.
Charlie Crist, former Republican Governor of Florida
Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy
Eva Longoria, Actress and Obama Campaign Co-Chair
John Kerry, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
Joe Biden, Vice-President of the United States
Barack Obama, President of the United States
What do you expect to hear from the president tonight?
8:21 PM EDT
A lot is made about the diversity at the Democratic National Convention – both on the stage and in the crowd. But we don’t give the Republican Party enough credit. The GOP convention was very diverse. There were white folk in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Recently Lindsay Graham said that there aren’t enough angry white men to keep the GOP in business. But the diversity issue isn’t just about ethnicity. Sure the Democrats had the first undocumented immigrant on stage to give a speech at convention. But they also had the son of two lesbians to speak on behalf of his family values.
The whirlwind that is this Republican Party is whirling heterosexual small business owners in. And everyone else seems to be spinning out. And this is the last election when that seems as if that strategy can even be competitive.
9:01 PM EDT
John Kerry had eight years of steam he let it out all over Mitt Romney.
Kerry’s foreign policy speech was filled with caustic one-liners like “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better of than he was four years ago.” He called Romney’s foreign policy trip a “blooper reel.” He reclaimed the idea of American Exceptionalism for the Democratic Party. And he got a chance to use the “for it before he was against it” charge, which helped sink his candidacy in 2004, against the current Republican nominee.
John Kerry’s revenge against Karl Rove – who is running the 2012 GOP campaign as much as he ran the 2004 campaign – was sweet.
And we just heard from the first American vice-president in 11 years who hasn’t shot a friend in the face. For months we’ve heard that Joe Biden came up with the line “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” This classic line became the thesis of the first half of his speech. He told the narrative of how both of these victories took place. How attempted to reveal why the president decided to rescue the auto industry and how he made the decision to go after bin Laden.
In the second half of his speech, Biden was in classic attack dog mode. He went after Romney’s lack of plans, his penchant for outsourcing and the GOP’s claim that they want to save Medicare. The vice president went after Romney’s now famous claim that we should move heaven and earth to get bin Laden. The crowd erupted into a chant of “U-S-A.”
His critique of Romney was based upon the notion that Romney only thinks about his own bottom line. However the vice-president would not let the crowd boo the GOP nominee.
The Republicans may have made a mistake by trying to diminish Joe Biden by casting him as a clown — a mix between a liberal Sarah Palin and Herman Cain. They feel that Paul Ryan is a perfect contrast to Biden’s sloppy, old fashioned. But Joe is politics itself. He gives as good of a speech as any working politician in American. His cadence and emotional are entirely relatable. The stability and spirit he brought to the 2008 campaign is easy to miss. And the Republicans, by lowering expectations, have made Joe Biden even more important in 2012.
11:30 PM EDT
The best part of the build up to president’s speech is when Republicans pretend that all of his advantages are actually problems. Was Michelle too good? Was President Clinton too good? Was the stock market hitting four-year highs too much pressure!
But the fact is President Obama went into his speech Thursday night with such much wind in his sails that short of a conjuring a tornado, he might disappoint.
His speech did not include new policy promises or an accounting of how the Republicans have hindered his success. It began with an accounting of his successes in a style many compared to the State of the Union. The subtext was a difference in vision that come to the fore when the president joked that the GOP sees tax cuts as a solution to everything – even the flu.
The President raised one new theme – citizenship. He used this frame to cast a wide net around his vision for the country. It was a new way to cram fairness, responsibility and inclusion into one idea. The most personal moment is when the president admitted that he has fallen to his knees because, as President Lincoln said, there was no where else to go. It was acceptance of responsibility and humility. And a subtle reminder that Lincoln himself faced a tough reelection in the midst of a crisis.
Republicans want to play up the idea that Clinton or Biden or Mrs. Obama gave a better speech but no one is saying Mitt Romney gave a better speech. That’s the metric that counts.
But speaking of metric that counts, the August jobs report will be out in nine hours, making it possibly the most important jobs report in human history. But maybe the president has outsmarted everyone by insuring that most of the journalists will be on a plane or hung over tomorrow morning.