1:30 am ET
The main goal of the Republican Convention was to humanize Mitt Romney enough to make voters see him as an acceptable alternative. The main goal of the Democratic Convention was to make voters think Barack Obama has good ideas to turn the economy around.
Perhaps the biggest two surprises in Charlotte were Obama’s failure to offer new or vivid specifics on what he would do to create more jobs if he is allowed to keep his own and the relative weakness of his speech, arguably not even one of the best four of the convention. Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, John Kerry and Jennifer Granholm all gave rousing addresses that held the delegates’ attention more than Obama’s closing act.
The incumbent seemed to be playing it safe, stringing together a series of focus-group-tested lines that were mostly rehashes of comments on the stump. White House aides had suggested before Thursday night that the President would address his plans for the economy in a second term, but he took a pass. Obama is, of course, a gifted speaker, but given the importance of the event, his remarks were almost perfunctory, lacking substance, cohesiveness or poetry, elevated only by some moments of levity and a few nifty one-liners.
To be sure, with the exception of the flap over the party platform regarding Israel and God, the Democrats put on a decidedly crisper, more lively three-day show than did Team Romney, with a carefully choreographed series of speeches, videos and entertainers that built nicely each night, anchored by marquee speakers who, with the exception of the President, delivered in full.
There has been justified second-guessing about the choices the Republicans made in Tampa, most especially turning the podium over to Clint Eastwood’s comedy act and showcasing some star pols who delivered disappointing performances. Democrats made consistently better decisions in putting their schedule together.
Given the political cult of personality that exists around the Obama brand and the man himself, it is ironic that he was the weak link in Charlotte, even though the President might well receive a bigger convention bounce than Romney because of the overall program. The Democrats end this fortnight with a chance to widen their lead, and it is unlikely that they lost anything. For all the sound and fury in Tampa and Charlotte, Romney still has about the same amount of ground to make up as before. Now the debates loom even larger, especially for the challenger.