Charlotte Off And Running
A quick survey of Democratic Party convention delegates here in Charlotte, North Carolina suggests that President Obama’s supporters are, once again, “fired up and ready to go,” to quote the lingo from 2008. I spoke with delegates from Georgia, California, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, West Virginia and North Carolina and all of them seem pretty excited following the opening sessions of the convention.
First lady Michelle Obama absolutely wowed the crowd Tuesday night, setting up an effective personal introduction to her husband later in the week. Some Democrats here agree with the notion that the party faithful need to be reminded about the president’s achievements during his first term, and they know they have a challenging case to make to the country at large as well.
But unlike the Republicans, who were united in their distaste for Mr. Obama well before their convention in Tampa, Florida last week, the Democrats really do need a pep rally. Barack Obama drew a huge wave of new voters four years ago that propelled him to the White House.
Party leaders acknowledge there is almost no way he can match his performance this time around among young voters, first time voters and women. That means there will need to be an extra push for those and other constituencies coming out of the convention.
Republicans believe opposition to the president will be enough to rally their base and get out their voters. Democrats may need to remind themselves how it was before Mr. Obama, and many seem to be making an extra effort to get back the enthusiasm they had four years ago. But a convention lineup of Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is pretty formidable, and party leaders are counting on a big boost coming out of Charlotte.
Can an Obama boost trump Romney?
Speaking of boosts, it doesn’t look like the Republicans got much of one out of their convention in Tampa, Florida last week. To be fair, they put on a disciplined show, basically stuck to the anti-Obama message and Mr. Romney gave a pretty good speech. But some of the public opinion surveys recorded only a one point poll bounce following their convention and I know they were hoping for more.
This sets up the Democrats and President Obama to retake a slight edge in the race after the president’s acceptance speech here Thursday night. If the Democrats keep control of their convention as they have and focus on Mr. Obama’s strengths, especially his like-ability and ability to connect with middle class voters, a good speech could set up a healthy popularity bounce that might put him in the driver’s seat for the next several weeks. It could be a critical moment in a close election campaign where neither candidate has been able to move into much of a lead.
After the conventions, the next major event is the first presidential debate on October 3rd. in Denver, Colorado.
Candidates usually play it safe in debates, not wanting to make a mistake that might take days to fix. Still, the debates are a true wild card in our political system and the candidate who comes out of the conventions with a lead, even a modest one, can have an advantage in the final weeks of the presidential race.