September 04, 2008
The Nostalgia Trap
Watching the first night of the truncated Republican National Convention, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon C-SPAN coverage of some Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering. Shots of the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center revealed a sea of white faces and gray heads.
Mike makes a great point about how well-received Palin's speech was among liberal elites. Lots of them deemed Palin's homespun shtick authentic and assumed it was what actual homespun people want. Fortunately, I think it's just another example of the elites being out of touch. My sense is that, while most PTA mothers don't want politicians bashing them, they don't see PTA membership as a qualification for the presidency. By playing up her ordinary mother bona fides, Palin demonstrated that she's a regular person.
Thanks to his neo-celebrity running mate, John McCain has one tough act to follow. The upside of Sarah Palin's turbocharged speech last night is that, well, the world is now obsessed with her. The downside: She's overshadowing John McCain, and at the same time has amped up the energy here in a way that puts more pressure on McCain to lift up the crowd. McCain needs to muster as much energy as he naturally can.
The McCain campaign faced an interesting choice last night: They could go for gravitas, weaving in wonky specifics to offset Palin's resume, or double-down on her small-town charm. They went with the latter, which played well on television, but I'm not sure it ultimately advanced Palin's cause. I could see people thinking this was a person they liked but wouldn't want anywhere near the White House. For that matter, I'm not sure the letters "PTA" should ever appear in a vice-presidential speech--at least not the biographical portion.
While Republicans may have consolidated their base and staunched the bleeding over Sarah Palin's pick, their most important task still remains: John McCain needs to go into a room of ten thousand screaming Republicans and distance himself from George W. Bush. The Obama campaign has honed its line of attack against John McCain--he has voted with George Bush 90% of the time and his election would represent a third Bush term. To its credit Team Obama repeats this like a mantra. If this criticism sticks it will be devastating to McCain.
A Little Water On The Palinmania
Hyperbole alert--tonight, Politico gushes, "all doubts were doused" after Palin's speech: "Palin’s speech so delighted some Republicans that they suggested it may instantly elevate her to GOP rock-star status and diminish presidential contenders who ran this year who may hope to seek the White House again. 'Who's most bummed?' asked one veteran Republican consultant. 'Obama? Biden? Mitt? Huck?
Palin Missed Her Chance
All right: Sarah Palin’s speech was well-delivered, charming, an opening-night hit. The anchors and pundits now analyzing it on CNN are falling all over themselves: “I think Republicans have to be thrilled with what happened here tonight—the most macho speech of the night was delivered by a woman,” Republican consultant Alex Castellanos marveled. But this all had been a foregone conclusion. People have questioned her experience and her background; nobody really questioned whether she could give a good speech, especially after her successful rollout address last Friday.
September 03, 2008
A Defense of Lieberman
We asked John Avlon, author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and Director of Speechwriting and Deputy Policy Director for Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, to give us an insider’s perspective from the Republican convention: The crowd in the convention center loved Fred Thompson's speech--the drawling delivery, the good ole boy character witness.
Enter Mccain's Sons
For all of the compromises John McCain has been willing to make in his pursuit of the White House, there's been one principle he's resolutely stuck by: He has not used his two sons' military service--one son, Jimmy, is a Marine who's done a tour in Iraq; another son, Jack, at the Naval Academ--for political purposes.
David Kusnet was chief speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton from 1992 through 1994. He is the author of Love the Work, Hate the Job: Why America's Best Workers Are Unhappier than Ever. John McCain canceled most events on the first night of the Republican National Convention and promised no partisan political rhetoric.