About last night. Democrats hug it out.

Good day Austin:

The third day of the Republican convention culminated in the booing of Ted Cruz.

The third day of the Democratic convention culminated in the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton hug.






It would have been cool if he had gone for “the kiss,” another great moment in Democratic Convention history.

But that didn’t end so well. Gore won the popular vote but lost the election, and, ultimately Tipper.

For both Obama and Clinton this, even more than his appointing her as his secretary of state, amounted to hugging out the hard feelings of 2008 when, in a famous scene in New Hampshire, Obama allowed to Clinton, “You’re likeable enough.”


The ultimate purpose of last night was to invite as many Americans as possible into a group hug, to leave Trump, and his supporters, looking like bitter, isolated outsiders who “don’t get” America, and don’t understand what makes it great, to seize the vast wide swath of mainstream American public opinion.

On occasion, Obama and the other speakers indulged in some hyperbole, one after another suggesting that Clinton was the most qualified candidate for president ever.

More qualified than Bill or Obama, maybe, though Bill was a governor. But what about George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and George Herbert Walker Bush?

If Donald Trump is elected president it will be a personal triumph of the highest order. He will pretty much single=handedly have taken over the Republican Party. He will have demonstrated an understanding, or an intuition, or an instinct for what the American people think and believe, that defies all the hugs, oratory, music and production values of an exquisitely executed Democratic convention.

Here are some impressions of last night from University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus:

Overall comparisons:
The Republicans didn’t seem to be having any fun at their convention.  They peddled primarily in fear and fire and brimstone.  The Democrats’ convention has a breezy style with Broadway singalongs and Daily Show-style clips making fun of Trump.  This makes the Democrats’ show more watchable, and the ratings seem to reflect this.
The Democrats have been better at developing a closing argument than the Republicans.  Campaigns are about designating a problem, a villain, and a hero to save us.  There is a narrative arc to campaign stories.  The Republicans identified the villain (Clinton, sometimes Obama) but did not credibly make Trump the hero.  Democrats have a full screenplay on display.
Big  Speeches, Day 3:
Biggest loser tonight:  Michael Bloomberg.  Never known as a firebrand, the speech was well received but flat.  An opportunity to develop for crossover appeal for moderate Republicans was squandered.
Biggest winner(s):  Earthy and gritty to the finish, Joe Biden made a strong case for Clinton optimism and delivered a punch square to Trump’s nose.  He tied with the President who did the best job of any speaker to date to spotlight the spirit of America and leveraged his credibility to criticize Trump.  

The President’s bar was high but he gave as energetic a speech we’ve seen since 2008.  This is Obama unleashed, and a good signal of what he’ll look like on the stump.  He would have pulled ahead of his Vice President if he didn’t describe Hilary Clinton’s success as an echo of his own success in office.
Hardest luck:  Tim Kaine, sent from central casting for the vice presidential role, who was squeezed between great speeches by Biden and Obama.  The bio video also stole much of his thunder by previewing some of the more interesting parts of his speech.  This is not to take away the humble, personable, and direct quality of his remarks.  His Trump impression, however, needs work.

Here is another take on Wednesday’s night’s show from Josh Scacco, an expert on political communication at Purdue University who got his PhD at the University of Texas. Josh’s take in many respects complements Brandon’s, though he has quite the opposite take on how Bloomberg did.

 The Democrats are attempting, and in many ways succeeding, in setting up a tonal contrast with the Republicans in their convention. Speakers emphasize one of the Clinton campaign’s big themes, “Better Together,” the podium is filled with well-known celebrities, and there is a surprising amount of substantive issue discussions alongside traditional biographical and narrative information. Democrats have officially co-opted the visuals and Americana that Republicans trademarked wholly at the beginning of the Reagan era.


The surprisingly good speech of the convention has been former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s promotion of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy from the perspective of an Independent. Much as Senator Ted Cruz’s speech did during the Republican convention, Bloomberg played to an audience beyond the immediate convention hall. The former mayor spoke from a position of an independent, businessman – providing a counterweight to Donald Trump. Most Americans are not ideologically consistent in the way we understand “conservative” and “progressive.” Bloomberg occupied this political sweet spot and adopted a compelling message that could resonate with disaffected Republicans and Independent voters.

Bill Clinton:

The former president took on a new role America has never seen before in his convention speech – first spouse. Instead of the rhetorical stemwinding, policy-focused speech Clinton traditionally employs with ease, he emphasized his perspective as husband and father in a speech focused on the Hillary Clinton he knew before the glare of the political spotlight. Should Clinton get elected president, there will need to be an expectations adjustment on the part of America to Bill Clinton in the role of “first gentleman.”

Barack Obama:

The first of many send-off speeches for President Obama mirrored Ronald Reagan’s farewell address in January 1989. Obama thanked those who had “made the journey with him,” just as Reagan thanked the men and women of the Reagan “revolution.” His rhetorical call to arms, “don’t boo, vote” and exhorting the public that “homegrown demagogues” always fail raised the stakes of an election he will frame as democratic governance versus authoritarianism. Obama made sure to frame his cause on the side of the angels – the democratic experiment known as America.







Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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