In the first day wives’ battle of the US national party conventions, victory went to the First Lady, Michelle Obama, whose charisma and class topped the Republican challenger, Ann Romney, by a margin fashioned from four years of White House experience and a lifetime of honesty.
Like Ann Romney, Michelle Obama gave a speech that was both personal and political, explaining why her husband deserves to be president: “I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are … And I’ve seen how issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones – the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer … the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error … But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.” (Here’s a full text of her speech: http://wapo.st/TWUOHj The photo above shows her addressing the faithful.)
Unlike the Republican gathering last week, the Democratic audience was diverse: black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, Asian, all kinds of ethnic groups. A long-time friend of mine and veteran Democratic campaigner, Mary Sullivan, is at the convention as a delegate from the State of Vermont. She sent this comment during the Obama speech: “Michelle is speaking and the delegates are going wild. Has there ever been such a popular first lady? I would doubt it. So warm and so sincere, and of course so stunning.”
The diversity of the gathering gave Mrs Obama the chance to talk about her husband living the American Dream and how he wants equal opportunity for all — having a small dig at Mitt Romney: “And he believes that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity … you do not slam it shut behind you … you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
Earlier, the rising Democratic star, Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, gave a rousing speech that would have stirred the Hispanic vote around the country. He paid tribute to his hard-working grandmother in the audience, and blasted the Republican candidate: “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. “Start a business,” he said. But how? “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he told them.” To much laughter from the convention, Castro wondered out loud: “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”
It wouldn’t be a Democratic Convention without a Kennedy tribute, and the video eulogising Ted Kennedy was powerful and passionate. It was introduced by Joe Kennedy III, who’s running for a Congressional seat in Massachusetts. It’s the first time since 1947 there’s no Kennedy in Congress. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house with an excerpt from Senator Kennedy’s speech to the 2008 Convention ending with “The dream lives on.” And a particularly good clip showed Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney in a 1994 Senatorial debate in Massachusetts where the Democrat revealed the Republican flip flopping on various issues. Kennedy got the biggest laugh when he said: “Now he’s for the minimum wage, he’s for education reform. We still have two weeks left, he may even vote for me.” Kennedy beat Romney by nearly three hundred thousand votes – a 58 to 41 per cent landslide, yet his closest re-election race — to keep his Senate seat. (Watch the video here: http://bit.ly/TkYuFs)
A Jimmy Carter video was shown before the Kennedy tribute, and a CNN commentator said: “Americans think he is a better ex-president than a president.” Democrats are hoping Barack Obama doesn’t follow the same path as Jimmy Carter, who was a one-term president, losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan.
DELEGATE: WE CAN WIN THIS CAMPAIGN
Mary Sullivan sent me this dispatch from Charlotte earlier this morning on the subject of how crucial this election is: “Just came back from a great breakfast sponsored by our dear Senator Patrick Leahy. The delegates were reminded — not that anyone needed reminding — of the importance of having the President re-elected and Sen. Leahy as chair of the Judiciary Committee when Supreme Court openings happen in the next four years. Mitt Romney’s election would change everything for a generation. We can’t let it happen and we won’t!! Senator Leahy is a truly inspirational figure, representing the best of United States.”
At the start of the convention, Mary was optimistic after attending a speech by Jim Messina, the campaign chairman for Obama for America: “Just heard Jim Messina. I walked into the event feeling like we can win this campaign. I walked out thinking we have an amazing leader in this effort. With his guidance and all of us doing our part we will definitely get the message out and go onto victory. What an amazing speaker!”
Michelle Obama was just as optimistic. Four years ago, she worried as only a potential First Lady could, about what it would mean for their two daughters if they got into the White House : “How would we keep them grounded under the glare of the national spotlight? How would they feel being uprooted from their school, their friends, and the only home they’d ever known?”
Four years later, the worries have disappeared because “today, I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and all our sons and daughters…if we want to give all our children a foundation for their dreams and opportunities worthy of their promise…if we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility – that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it…then we must work like never before…and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our President, President Barack Obama.”
Finally, the major speaker of Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention is former President Bill Clinton, who’s patched up differences with Barack Obama, after their spat during the 2008 campaign over Obama’s then rival, Hillary Clinton. There’s a wonderful background piece in the New Yorker by Ryan Lizza, explaining why they decided it was time to work together (http://nyr.kr/OeRrKB). Still a very popular figure, Clinton will deliver his speech sometime between noon and 1pm Australian Eastern Time today, and it should be a perfect set-up to Barack Obama accepting the nomination on Day 3. Both speeches are must watching for political junkies!