Thursday, September 06, 2012


I had the same reaction I imagine most of you had to Bill Clinton's speech last night: that he made an amazingly strong case for Obama's reelection, that he effectively rebutted just about every argument against Obama, that he's still the most compelling speechmaker in America and was at the top of his form, and that, yeah, the speech sure did drag on after a while.

I'm not worried about the length -- many of Clinton's State of the Union addresses, especially in the latter part of his presidency, seemed similarly hyperextended, and I recall that they still polled extremely well.

I'm worried that while the message certainly conceded the point reluctant voters are making -- if you're dissatisfied with the status quo under Obama, I feel your pain, though here's why you should vote for Obama anyway -- the tone was just the opposite: celebratory, rhapsodic, giddy with possibility. In one way of looking at it, that's exactly how Clinton had to sound -- he had to say that the case for Obama's reelection is so strong it's almost overwhelming. But I wonder if persuadable voters would have responded to less enthusiasm rather than more, because it would match their feelings.

I know, I know -- we had a guy last night who wasn't apologizing for being a Democrat and I'm complaining? But I hope it caught the mood of swing voters, not just committed Democrats at home and in the hall.

And, yeah, I hope the speech didn't take the focus away from Obama. If it did, that would also be a sign that voters were paying more attention to the tone than the content. The pundit chatter leading up to the speech suggested that Clinton might offer a halfhearted endorsement of Obama, or (a la Chris Christie) barely an endorsement at all, or even might undermine Obama with a phrase or two. Nothing of the sort happened -- the words Clinton spoke couldn't possibly have been more pro-Obama. But if swing voters responded to the aura of the speech, the feel of it, the Clinton-ness of it, rather than to what he actually said, they could come away admiring Clinton but not coming around to Obama. Logically, this makes no sense -- didn't you people hear what he said? But it seems to me that it's possible. I just don't know. The polls will tell.

Meanwhile, a pretty good speaker is up tonight -- two, in fact. Biden will surprise you if you haven't seen him deliver a speech. And Obama's going to take the baton and, I think, run a hell of an anchor leg. That's what necessary to bring this home.


Victor said...

If Clinton just waxed poetic, you might be on to something.

But damn, man, while I remembered how feckin' great a speaker he can be, I'd forgotten how awesome an explainer/teacher he is.

Clinton didn't just talk on and on, pontificating - he was a man with a message, on a mission!

"The Big Dawg," with figures at his fingertips, and a smile on his face, bit into Romney/Ryan's femur, and didn't let go until the end, after he'd left them limping and bleeding profusely.

He took them apart, in his folksy way, piece by piece.
He covered the gamut of reasons for people to vote for Obama over those two. He masterfully exposed the Romney/Ryan bullsh*t.

And, as always, Bill Clinton did it with "brass."

And unlike after the RNC, I DO expect a moderate bump - if not more.

If people tuned in, "undecided," or "unsure," to to both conventions to see 'what's what,' in American politics, the Democrat's 'who's who' made the Republican's Convention look a political version of "Waiting for Guffman" - rank Randian amateur actors, waiting for a real producer.

Any two minutes of Castro, Michelle, or Bill, was better than the entire RNC.

And now, after Michelle and Clinton got everyone more than warmed-up, it's time for Barack Obama to sell the deal.

And that man ain't a bad closer himself!

Danp said...

The media only focuses on the shallow stuff. Why else is "there you go again" or "I knew Jack Kennedy" or "the difference between a hockey mom..." so famous? It certainly wasn't the substance. But people who want this shallow analysis don't watch speeches or debates.

Where I am skeptical is whether "undecideds" are more swayed by substance or the shallow cable news analysis. My guess is that the difference between Romney and Obama is so great that no functional human being can be both undecided and informed.

: smintheus :: said...

The real question for me is how many persuadable voters tuned in for Clinton's speech. If they did in large numbers, then Clinton all but ensured Obama's re-election because he blew the entire Romney campaign out of the water while making a strong positive case for Obama's achievements.

Chris Andersen said...

What impressed me was how Clinton made specific policy points interesting. I knew all the facts he stated already because I've been following it for months, but he somehow made those facts interesting to listen to, which is a skill very few people have.

Which is weird, because I can't figure out why it is so hard to explain these facts in an interesting way. I guess my problem is that I find facts interesting in and of themselves. I don't usually need someone to explain why they are interesting. I just automatically get it. But a lot of people don't. A lot of people don't get that a 1/3 cut in Medicaid would have a *huge* impact on the care of the elderly in nursing homes. Clinton explained that in a couple of a sentences in a way that made you realize, WOW, Romney's proposals really would screw a lot of people who are planning to vote for him.

I wish I knew how to bottle that skill.