Obama to Country: Give Me Another Chance

September 7th, 2012

Barack Obama gave it his best shot Thursday night and it just might give him a boost for the final two months of his race for re-election as president. Essentially, Mr. Obama tried to make the case that while things have not gone as well as everyone had hoped when he was first elected four years ago, his path is the best way forward.

Mr. Obama brought his usual rhetorical flair to the Democratic Party’s convention here in Charlotte, North Carolina and the delegates were eager to react to every word. But he did have a tough act to follow given the speech First lady Michelle Obama delivered on the opening night followed another from former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday.

The president focused his nomination acceptance speech on the future, telling voters they have a choice in this election like none other over the past 25 years. By making that choice about the future, Mr. Obama hopes enough voters will overlook his less than stellar record on the economy and give him another four years.

The mood in the street following his speech was electric. Thousands of Obama delegates and supporters flooded downtown Charlotte, some singing and chanting. Clearly for those attending the convention the energy is back. Maybe not like four years ago, but these past several days at the convention might have been enough to re-energize Democratic spirits.

In the hours leading up to the speech, scores of delegates headed for the arena in a giddy mood. And that enthusiasm was on display during the president’s speech, with delegates whooping, hollering and generally having a grand old time while the president made his case.

Follow the Bouncing Polls

The question now is what kind of post-convention bounce the president will get heading into the final two months of the campaign. I talked with noted Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who says the Obama speech came at a critical moment in the campaign, a real opportunity for Democrats to put some daylight between themselves and the Republican ticket led by Mitt Romney.

Greenberg says Romney-Ryan ticket got a minimal bounce out of the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida the week before, largely because of the addition of Paul Ryan as the vice presidential candidate. He says a strong public reaction to Mr. Obama’s speech coupled with a smooth and energizing Democratic convention could propel the president into a three to four point lead over Mr. Romney in the public opinion polls heading into the final eight weeks of the campaign.

That may not sound like much, but a lot of strategists say that in a close race it could be determinative, meaning this convention potentially was a watershed moment for Mr. Obama and his Democratic supporters.

But it’s still early and lots of things can still happen, like the Obama-Romney debates. The first one is October 3rd in Denver.

Democratic Highlights: Mrs. O and Daddy-O

Without question, the top three Democratic stars were — not necessarily in order — First lady Michelle Obama (Mrs. O), former President Bill Clinton (Daddy-O) and, of course, President Obama himself (The Big O?). We should probably also throw in San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who gave the keynote address on the opening night.

Looking back to the Republican convention, Ann Romney had a solid speech that filled in some of the blanks about her husband, Mitt. But two days after speech, delegates were still buzzing about the job Michelle Obama did on behalf of her husband Tuesday night.

There is a cool, sometimes aloof quality to President Obama that sometimes tempers his ability to connect with voters. But Mrs. Obama provided the antidote for that in spades when she spoke to the convention. Lots of delegates, especially women, had a very emotional reaction.

The Democrats seemed to be very effective in trying to maximize the advantage they have with certain key voting groups: women, who actually make up a majority of voters, Hispanics and African-Americans. Given the challenges this year in trying to replicate the record turnout among young and first-time voters in 2008, the Democrats are counting on their convention to re-energize the critical voting blocs where the president has a big edge over Mr. Romney and make sure they get out and vote in November.

Whose Convention Was Better Anyway?

Somewhat unexpectedly, I found more energy at the Democratic conclave in Charlotte than I did in Tampa with the Republicans.

Look, the Republicans have been ginned up for two years about beating President Obama. All the Tea Party conservatism and the takeover of the House of Representatives were just lead-ups for the expected main event — the defeat of President Obama in 2012.

So yeah, Republicans were psyched in Tampa to come together under a banner that says “Beat Obama,” instead of “We Love Mitt.” You got the feeling in Tampa that most of the Republicans felt they did what they had to do — rallied around Mr. Romney more with their heads than their hearts, and got ready for the final two months of the campaign.

But in Charlotte, the Democrats seemed loaded for bear. It’s like all that Democratic energy has been out there untapped and is now ready to come bursting out.

To be sure, the Democrats still have their challenges. Have they won over enough swing voters? Will the kids really turn out in droves again for the president? Can they match the level of excitement and commitment among Democratic loyalists, especially Hispanics and younger, single women?

But after their convention, it’s easier to believe the Democrats just might be able to rally a better turnout than some of the experts predicted. It’s not a lock, and a lot can happen between now and November 6th, but most of the Democrats I talked to feel a lot more confident about the president’s chances after Charlotte than before.

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