Time to roll up our sleeves and grade the Democratic Convention. Keep in mind, the same rubric applies as it did for the Republicans. Links to speeches can help you make up your own mind:
Ted Strickland: In case you wonder what a Democratic partisan sounds like, here you are. In the Twitter age, stuff like this flies onto the greasy screens: “Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport” or “Obama saved the American auto industry. Romney saved on his taxes.” On the edge B+/A-
Deval Patrick: The Guv-after-Romney from MA has charisma, presence, and charm–possibly a triple threat that some suggest could have been more effectively deployed. You may agree or disagree–but its hard to not be overwhelmed by the sheer effective trade craft in both verbal and non-verbal oratorial skill. He revved up the crowd–and maybe the mics are messing with us, but they sounded a lot more jazzed than the Republicans did all last week. Too bad he succumbed to the Paul Ryan lack of “truthiness” when criticizing Mitt. A-
Tribute Video: Channeling the ghost of Senator Edward Kennedy was a blast from the past, and may be the wrong approach for a part that is asking for four more years. This undoubtedly placated the base (but nobody else). However, the jabs at Romney–a la the original Kennedy/Romney US Senate debates are edited for multiple impacts. “I am for a woman’s choice. My opponent is multiple choice” opines Kennedy. Pow! B+
Michelle Obama: Powerful political rhetoric that resold the base another barrel of enthusiasm and may even have made headway into the most imoportant creature of the 2012 election–the brain of political moderates. As E.J. Dionne notes, she “devastated by implication” and through personal stories. .
Julian Castro: Odd cadence and style that feels like sucking up (Jimmy Fallon nailed it). Even so, the stagecraft of his precious 3-year-old daughter, blithely ignoring the cameras–made the message for him–as a good son and kind father, and a name to watch according to politicos. (He can make some public speaking improvements, even though maybe this was an overly tough assignment to receive.) B-
Bill Clinton: The classic campaign cum reelection speech with a liberal does of policy wonkery. Welcome back, Slick Willey. He has better arguments, gestures, facial expressions, poise, and charm–all the while making substantive points and treating you like an adult–and it worked big time. He leads the pro-Wall Street wing of the party, in direct oppostion to Elizabeth Warren (explained in NYT). A+
John Kerry: Where was this guy in 2004? Good speech with lots of quick jabs, foreign policy punches, and overall a great tryout for Sec State. Tricky message for Kerry to call Mitt a flip-flopper, but he did and got away with it. B+
President Obama: [transcript] Hard to follow the previous speakers, and hard to follow on expectations from his past speeches. Clearly, the President is a skilled orator–but what approach would he take tonight? His tone was different from past speeches–more “presidential” and also more muted without the grand promises and with some sharp distinctions. “You elected me to tell the truth.” The theme of morality, echoed by Biden and Clinton, is another line in the sand–protecting the vulnerable and avoiding absolutes: “And by the way, those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.” Some like Joe Klein and David Brooks hoped the President would “close the deal” or lay out a plan and chose a big plan/clear path. Ross Douthat even ventured that it was Obama’s weakest speech ever–which is like saying Michael Phelps only won bronze. The delivery was strong, the approach subdued, the message had more substance than Romney–and a great take down of Romney’s foreign policy gaffes. But overall, he is the President and I tend to agree that it was his ultimate goal to lead out and show the path. A-
Overall, higher grades in the oratorial skill for the Democratic Convention. If you wanted to be moved, you were moved. If you were undecided, hard to say if your position was changed. Sometimes it feels like our hyper-critical, immediate-feedback media machine is a little too much. Just look back and enjoy the real classics.