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September 04, 2012 11:51 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

By Ed Kilgore

Appreciation of Michelle Obama’s speech tonight seems to be building and building. For sure she (as Chuck Todd just said on NBC) “owned” the convention in a way no speaker at either event has so far. There is zero question she accomplished a great deal to help generate “base” enthusiasm for her husband; she basically shamed Democrats into caring about this election. And her perfectly delivered speech created a variety of implicit contrasts with Ann Romney’s address last week, which “humanized” her husband by explaining that they once had to eat tuna pasta before Bain Capital was formed and took off, and have always given a healthy portion of their unimaginable wealth to private charity.

More generally, the first day of the Democratic convention exhibited two things some observers weren’t sure to expect: (1) a robust defense of Obama’s governing record, especially (and unexpectedly, as Ezra Klein notes) ObamaCare; and (2) a direct, uninhibited assault on the GOP generally and Mitt Romney specifically. On the latter front, Deval Patrick gave what might have been remembered, had Michelle Obama not blotted out the sun, as the best first-night speech. And “keynote” speaker Julian Castro provided a hefty combo platter of Latino solidarity with Obama; an implicit contrast with the laissez-faire oriented Latino outreach of the GOP convention; some good shots at Romney; and an appeal to younger voters.

As a veteran of the 2004 convention, when the word came down that speakers were not to criticize Republicans at all (based on some focus groups of independents expressing hostility to partisanship), this was all pretty amazing.

And I’m impressed so far at the Democrats’ ability to combine a contextualized and aggressive defense of Obama’s record with a direct challenge to the GOP message.

I personally figured tomorrow night with Bill Clinton would provide the first big fireworks of this convention. Now the big question is whether Clinton’s speech and Obama’s will build on tonight’s momentum, and present the complex, coherent case they need to move the numbers a bit and set the stage for an epic GOTV effort.

Back tomorrow to discuss the overnight evaluation of the first day, and the verbiage just ahead.

Selah.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Anonymous on September 05, 2012 12:54 AM:

    "...And her perfectly delivered speech created a variety of implicit contrasts with Ann Romney’s address last week, which “humanized” her husband by explaining that they once had to eat tuna pasta before Bain Capital was formed and took off, and have always given a healthy portion of their unimaginable wealth to private charity..."

    My husband and I had...tuna pasta for dinner this evening. Somehow I just don't feel 'connected' to Ann and Mitt because of it.
    What I think the Democrats accomplished this evening, in addition to what was noted, was that they steadily beat the drum for the spectrum of accomplishments that many Americans either weren't fully aware of, or remember in piecemeal. Anyone who fit those categories at the beginning of this evening won't be oblivious now.

  • Varecia on September 05, 2012 12:55 AM:

    "...And her perfectly delivered speech created a variety of implicit contrasts with Ann Romney’s address last week, which “humanized” her husband by explaining that they once had to eat tuna pasta before Bain Capital was formed and took off, and have always given a healthy portion of their unimaginable wealth to private charity..."

    My husband and I had...tuna pasta for dinner this evening. Somehow I just don't feel 'connected' to Ann and Mitt because of it.
    What I think the Democrats accomplished this evening, in addition to what was noted, was that they steadily beat the drum for the spectrum of accomplishments that many Americans either weren't fully aware of, or remember in piecemeal. Anyone who fit those categories at the beginning of this evening won't be oblivious now.

  • Anonymous on September 05, 2012 1:45 AM:

    Deval Patrick hit one over the fence. Michelle Obama hit one out of the park.

    I agree with what Mark Shields said on PBS, Michelle's speech was genius in its ability to subtly draw a stark contrast between Obama and Romney with out even mentioning Romney by name.

  • smartalek on September 05, 2012 4:37 AM:

    "the 2004 convention, when the word came down that speakers were not to criticize Republicans at all (based on some focus groups of independents expressing hostility to partisanship)"

    It's been a while (8 years, if I haven't miscalculated), so I've forgotten the exact order of events, but I do believe the Dem convention preceded the Pubbies'?
    But what I remember full well was the mass-media & Villagers' blitz, warning the Dem's that -- despite the catastrophic failure that the Cheney/GWB administration had clearly already become -- the Dems' must not go "negative" (ie, report the obvious facts), because the voters wouldn't like it.
    Of course, the Pubbies then -- as now -- having absolutely nothing they could say for themselves, made their convention a 1/2-week 2-Minute Hate, and funny thing: the voters turned out not to punish the "negative" party after all!
    Whodathunkit?
    I don't think there's much doubt that the combo-platter of that, plus Kerry's refusal to fight back at the Swift Boat Liars, was a major factor (my bet is that it was the single most important one, outranking even the "flip-flopper" and "elitist" memes) in Kerry's loss.
    The narrative clearly became: "if he won't even fight for himself, he obviously won't fight for me" -- allowing back into office the very clowns who had let 9/11 happen*.
    Whoever it was that made those decisions should be taken out behind the chemical sheds and shot.
    It was worse than a blunder-- it was a crime.
    And I mean that literally. Given the ensuing damage to our country -- and the entire world! -- it wasn't just treason (tho it was that, even if only by incompetence); it was a crime against humanity.
    .
    .
    *despite the fevered tone above, I don't mean to imply "willfully, w/ malice aforethought."
    Even my cynicism doesn't -- quite -- extend to 9/11-trutherism.

  • DJ on September 05, 2012 5:02 AM:

    It's been a while (8 years, if I haven't miscalculated), so I've forgotten the exact order of events, but I do believe the Dem convention preceded the Pubbies'?

    The party not in control of the White House holds their convention first, so yes, the 2004 Democratic Convention was first.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 05, 2012 5:03 AM:

    smartalek: I believe the traditional order is for the incumbent President's party to go second, so you would be correct. And I certainly agree with you that Kerry's campaign largely did itself in by trying to play by nice rules of what the Beltway press corps would consider civilized when Rove & Co. had no intention of playing by those rules.

  • Bobby Goren on September 05, 2012 8:21 AM:

    "and have always given a healthy portion of their unimaginable wealth to private charity."

    Ed,

    I'm 99% with you on this post but have a bone to pick on the whole "charity" thing. Churches are religious organizations. While most religious organizations perform some charitable work - all have advancement of its religious beliefs as a major purpose. Because of the opacity of LDS Church finances, objective figures are hard to come by but some estimates, using church figures, put less than 1% of LDS Church annual income to charitable purposes - compared with almost a third in some denominations (see below).

    The LDS Church REQUIRES tithing to be a member in good standing. Like most Mormons, the Romneys' social, political and financial lives revolve around their church. Surprise! it just so happens the overwhelming majority of the Romneys' "charitable" giving, 95% in 2009, is to the LDS Church and its affiliates. Their tithe supports, and is required to receive, these very private benefits.

    I'm not begrudging the Romneys' their religious life. However, to suggest that paying the required amount - or even a bit more - to their church somehow demonstrates a generosity of spirit is ludicrous.

    Church giving may be defined as a charitable purpose by the IRS - but most of it is hardly altruistic. So let's stop conflating religious giving with true charity and call it what it is - club dues.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/mitt-romneys-charitable-donations-mormon-church-2012-7

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/fi/vol_32/4/cragun_32_4.pdf

  • SadOldVet on September 05, 2012 9:13 AM:

    As a veteran of the 2004 convention...

    Gosh Ed, your occasional 'name dropping' is impressive.

    You must miss the good old DLC days when you could trash progressives as not being the 'real democrats' and work with Harold Ford and Zell Miller to show fellow DINOs how to vote like republicans.

  • Lifelong Dem on September 05, 2012 9:51 AM:

    I remember watching the 2004 Dem convention in a rage that the party was such a pussy that it was afraid of being "mean" to GW Bush. I was really afraid the same thing would happen this time, but if Tuesday night was any indication, Democrats have grown a pair. About time.

  • g on September 05, 2012 10:12 AM:

    I think the biggest contrast between the two conventions is that the Republicans' strongest passion was hatred of Obama - not enthusiasm for Romney. While what I saw last night was Democrats' strongest passion was love and inclusion and compassion for all Americans, especially those who are in need, and enthusiasm for Barack Obama.

    Maybe the party of Hate will prevail, but I doubt it.