For President Obama to stay in office, the convention had to make the case that he is the right guy to get the country to where it wants and needs to be. It needed to really work the idea about how terrible things would have been without him, and even though it tried, it failed. Many of the speeches were very good. Michelle, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack all gave great speeches. They were very moving, well timed, and expertly delivered. All four of them proved that they are great on a stage, but they did not make the case for re-election like the campaign desperately needed. Compounding the problems for Barack & Co. were the lead in speakers.
Tuesday night the lead in speaker to Michelle Obama was Mayor Julian Castro. This guy is the embodiment of a pandering politician or a proselytizing preacher, you take your pick. It was a speech empty of policy specifics. Instead he only offered general ideas of class warfare and party line lies. Most notably he said that President Obama got healthcare expanded to all Americans, wrong. CBO estimates that by 2020 there will still be 30,000,000 Americans will still be uninsured. In the auditorium, none of that mattered, the crowd loved his approach and delivery. The downside is that his willingness to offer empty words and just say what people wanted to hear was likely a turn off to the undecideds.
Following his empty speech was a very deep and heart felt speech from Michelle Obama. However, the depth came from describing how Barack's heart feels. She made an airtight case that she married the right man for her, and by all accounts an all star father. What Michelle did not do was make the case for re-election. Very few people, if anyone at all, doubt that he is a great husband and father, what they do doubt is that he can get the job done turning around America. The speech text on the face is one thing, it's the subtext that must be analyzed to grasp the impact of speech in totality. She seemed unsure when commenting on policies, and used a lot of "ifs."
There are also a few specific lines that we should look at here. First, while talking about the problems a president faces, she said "the problems where no amount of numbers or data will get you the right answer... as president you are going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people, but at the end of the day when it comes time to make that decision as president, all you have to guide you are your values and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are." Most voters do not want to hear that their President is winging it. Yes, it is clear what she was going for, Barack has a big heart that guides his decision making, but that is NOT a good case for re-electing him. Many discerning voters are likely to find it offensive that he is possibly not listening to as many expert opinions as he should, or that he is not gathering enough information. Life experience may tell you not to eat that habanero pepper, or to keep your hands inside the bus, but it cannot prepare you to be President of the U.S.A. Also, most of life experience comes from mistakes, is she saying that he is making decisions based on past mistakes? Second, she said "For Barack, success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives." This was another misstep. Again, it's clear what she was going for, but that is not what people who are struggling to pay the bills, unemployed, underemployed, or in a number of other situations want to hear. They want, they NEED to hear that the good jobs are coming back, and that opportunity dawns anew. Third, and this was the biggest mistake, she went into a portion of the speech where she actually highlighted people sacrificing more. She went as far back as the American revolution and the moon landing, then said, "surely we can keep on sacrificing for our own kids and grand kids, right?" This shows a level of disconnect. Many already feel as if they have sacrificed as much as they can, and the worst part is, it takes the idea of the current economy and makes it an indefinite time span in the voters mind.
Wednesday night was Sandra Fluke and Bill Clinton. Before these two came to stage there was a line of interesting speakers, and some odd gaffes. California Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke, and during her speech she mentioned that her and 48 other AG's, with Obama standing behind them, won a case against the big banks for $25 billion. Sounds great right? Well think about this. The banks they won the suit against were: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC). Now look at how much they each got in the $700 billion tarp bill, listed in the same order: $45 billion, $25 billion, $25 billion, $45 billion, $16.9 billion. So $156.9 billion total that these five banks took away from the taxpayer bailout, and the mighty 49 AG's got $25 billion back for them screwing customers? Now most people won't know these numbers, but voters paying attention will definitely remember the $700 billion bailout.
Keeping in tune with the bailout, following Kamala were multiple UAW people, including Bob King, the President of the Union. So, the people that many see as being responsible for the auto industry's troubles came out to talk about the auto industry being saved. Okay cool, now we can see that tonight is really highlighting the bailout aspect. Joe Biden hadn't driven that home already with his "I got a bumper sticker" speech? This was wasted time on the stage, and it further highlighted the bailout big government theme that was really starting to build at this point. Sandra Fluke helped add to this.
A few months ago Sandra Fluke made news when she was supposedly rejected from a congressional meeting by house republicans. Having her speak was a terrible idea. Aside from coming across smug and immature in her tone, she included no policy specifically, and simply tried to scare women. There are two reasons that the decision to have her speak was appalling. First is the entire lie surrounding her story. Pay close attention here, because this is something that all voters should know. The original intent of a congressional meeting was to get facts about contraception on the congressional record. Darrell Issa a California republican who is the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called the meeting so that house democrats could get facts about birth control on the record that had not been heard before. House democrats requested that Barry Lynn, a man who is recognized as having expertise in the matter, as the witness. House republicans agreed. The day before the hearing, the house democrats dropped Barry Lynn, and requested that Sandra Fluke testify in his place. They felt that her views as a woman, and as a democratic activist would serve them better, despite her not having any measurable amount of expertise other than her gender. Issa declined to play their game and rejected the request. After all that, the democratic subcommittee staged a meeting to look like a hearing and had her testify there. Her testimony was vague and she only offered unnamed examples. At this point, the focus turned to whether or not a private university like Georgetown should have to provide birth control, at their cost, to students. This whole scam was not about a RIGHT to birth control, it was about who should pay for it. This narrative of events is a potential political grenade waiting to explode. Second, the attempt to hammer home "women's healthcare rights" falls flat. It shows how it's not about the idea of access to contraception, but about how this group of people wants the American tax dollars to pay for contraception. There is huge difference between having access to contraception. and having the government pay for it. Most voters are against paying for people's lifestyle choices.
Now it's time to discuss President William Jefferson Clinton. His speech was great, he nailed it like he always does. The problem for Obama is that it was great for Bill and tepid for Barack. Sure, he endorsed Barack and talked about all the good things he has done, but his passion when talking about Barack was luke warm at best, while his passion for the democratic party (and himself) was palpable. Turn on any political talk show, or read any political magazine or newspaper and you'll hear about his likability, which is great, it's good that people like him. Since leaving the Presidency he has done a load of humanitarian work. He deserves that credit and the likability. What is not being said in any polls is his "Credibility" rating. The same guy who is best known for lying under oath is the same guy who said that President Obama is getting the job done. People will take it with a grain of salt. The undecideds expect him to help the party and say what he has to, so the overall boost is minimal if not a negative. When he wasn't giving half-hearted praise, he was reminding everyone how great things were, which highlights how things are today. It casts more question upon the current administration's ability to get the job done.
Thursday night, Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, and Eva Longoria failed at getting the message out. They should stick to doing MTV awards appearances. Kerry came across as someone who was just repeating what they heard someone else say. Scarlett was worse. She admitted that her mom let her pull her voting levers. She admitted that 2008 was her first time voting. If she was such a concerned citizen why didn't she vote in 2004 or 2006? To the voter, that creates the imagery of fad support and no substance on the issues. To top it off, Eva's speech really flopped. She kept talking about taxes and tax cuts. Of course she thinks her money is better off with the government, she filed bankruptcy for two restaurants last year, to the tune $5.7 million in debt and losses of $76,000 a month. Thanks for the financial advice Eva. Most people do not want governance advice from someone that reads lines for a living, and especially an absentee bankrupt business owner. Additionally, the issue at the core is not about paying taxes, it is about how the money is spent. Another huge miss all three nights at the convention.
Following the celebrities was Joe Biden. It was shaky at first, as he messed up on the day Michelle spoke twice, first saying last night, which was wrong, then Monday - a day no one spoke, but he pulled it together. He came across as sincere and heartfelt. His speech was passionate and stirring, but again he did not make the case for re-election based on ability. Barack followed him, with more of the same.
President Obama did excellent in the delivery of his speech, but the substance was way too light. When he did touch on substance, he echoed the big themes of the convention: big government, easier immigration, more taxes, women's fears, and "it could have been worse."
By the time the Vice President and President spoke, everything had been said, and neither offered much new. The case was made repetitively for how big of a heart our president has. Again, that is not really being contested, what is being contested is his ability, and what is being alleged is that he is in over head. The convention did little to rebut this, and in some cases built on these criticisms. Whomever set the line up of speakers should be fired, immediately, and they are not the only one. Did you see the vote to put "God" and "Jerusalem as the capital of Israel" BACK into the platform? It was a complete debacle. It does not take a rocket scientist to see how that will affect the Jewish vote in Florida. A very important voter block in a very important state. The media has only served to compound the lackadaisical approach to running the convention. They were all laughing and repeating the Will Rogers quote, "I belong to no organized party, I am a democrat." This is a terrible plight upon the Obama campaign. How does this translate to that percentage of voters who have not made up their minds? Like this, if the campaign and party are too disorganized to run a three day convention, then how the hell can they help the country in four years? It didn't stop there either. Obama's speech was supposed to be in front of 76,000 people. Instead it was held indoors in front of 20,000. Delegates were literally left in the rain while lobbyists watched Obama's speech. Weather may very well have been the reason, and not crowd weakness, but it does not look good.
The best word to describe the three days is fiasco. Sure, there will be a poll bump, but it will be a quick hot burning fire instead of the slow building ember that is needed if Barack wants to keep his job. The one advantage that the President does have is that Governor Romney is still failing to define himself in depth enough for voters to move towards him. The campaign headquarters in Chicago had better think fast, because after October 3rd, that advantage will erode fast.