And the Democrats have just had their turn. Now it begins...
The Democrats needed to fire up their base, motivate their constituent groups and appeal to the large group of voters who supported the president in 2008, but who are now wavering. Was this sucessful?
Early post convention polling seems to suggest that it was. From my perspective the Democrats were able to accomplish many of these goals and more importantly frame the election as a choice (which is good for Obama) versus a referendum on the past four years (which is good for Romney).
Was the base fired up?
Undoubtedly yes. Unlike the Republicans who may respect, but who don't love their candidate, the party faithful in Charlotte seem to truly love President Obama and will invest an incredible amount of passion to reelect him. Romney was predictably painted as an out of touch billionaire, but much of the convention was a full throated defense of the president and how he needed four more years to dig out of the mess he inherited.
Were party's constituents group motivated?
There was an amazing amount of red meat thrown to various activist groups from the abortion issue, to immigration, to gays, to minorities, and to unions. This was not a convention (apart from the Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama addresses) designed to reach out to middle of the road voters. This will be a "base election" and both parties are pulling out all the stops to fire up their voters and key groups.
The Big Dog...
Bill Clinton is perhaps the best natural politician that this nation has produced in the last generation if not century. He gave a folksy address defending the president and lambasting the Republican's "extremism and obstructionism". This was aimed at suburban college-educated voters who supported Obama in 2008, but who are somewhat loathe to do so again. He also did Hillary Clinton a huge service - if Obama wins in 2012 and Hillary runs in 2016 there is a massive favor to call in.
Michelle Obama gave a very well received address. She sought to humanize the rather chilly and aloof impression that many have of the her husband. This was aimed at female voters and certainly didn't hurt.
Curiously, the President's address ran more like his standard stump speech than the soaring rhetoric of 2008. It was a solidly delivered "stay the course" speech, but after Mr. Clinton's address, a bit of a deflated ending to the convention.
However, not all was well...
There was a major embarrassment when the convention voted to reinstate language regarding Jerusalem being the capital of Israel and language invoking God back into the party platform. This was done by a 2/3 voice vote which clearly was adopted and rushed through without 2/3 (or even half) of delegates supporting it via a voice vote. Additionally, as much of the convention highlighted positions and speechifying from rather far-left leaning speakers, there is risk of alienating the few swing voters who remain.
As with the Republican Convention, TV viewership was down from 2008. As I stated before, there is case to be made that the three-day National Party Convention is becoming less meaningful. The Democrats did benefit from going second and seem to have stepped on any convention "bounce" that Romney may have had. In fact, early polling suggests that Obama is seeing a bounce of a few points. We shall see if this is sustained over the next couple of weeks - especially in light of the very disappointing August jobs report which threatens to step on this bounce.
A quick mention about the August jobs report - the unemployment rate did drop from 8.3% to 8.1%. If the public looks at this statistic it is a positive for the Obama Administration. But...the net number of individuals in the workforce declined sharply, thus lowering the rate due to discouraged people not looking for work. The Romney campaign is focusing on this piece of very negative data to argue that the recovery is slowing. Both campaigns will be spinning this furiously over the next week.
Now it is truly on. First debate is scheduled for October 3. 58 days to go!