7:34 MDT: Bill Clinton did ok. He beat the spread. But this was no home run. Hillary Clinton’s speech was much more emotionally connective. Her question, “Why were you in it?” is an on-point question and the central question posed to her supporters reluctant to rally behind Obama. By comparison, I am not sure I can identify the emotional core of Bill’s speech.
7:25 MDT: The money shot. (Sorry, had to.) Bill does what Hillary didn’t last night, which is to explicitly address the experience question and say Obama is ready to be president. It was a good moment, but not much more than a declarative statement without what Bill typically does best in speeches, make an argument. Is the sound bite enough? “Sound familiar?” Yeah, Bill, it sounds like January through early June, 2008.
7:21 MDT: I caught a replay of Michelle Obama’s speech later the same night on CNN. On the replay, allowed to appreciate the gestalt of the speech, I found it much more compelling than when I watched it in a room full of people. I wonder whether I’ll appreciate it more with a little distance. It’s definitely getting better, though.
7:17 MDT: Changed the time of the post so Nate’s is up top. Nate is in the pocket of Big Twitter.
7:11 MDT: In the spirit of Clinton psychoanalysis. One other thought on Bill I’ve been thinking for awhile, now’s an organic a time as any to mention it. I think Bill sees in Obama an authentic version of the best self Bill knows he had inside of him the potential to be. I think it bugs him to no end, the “I coulda been a contender” spirit. Alternatively, you could say Bill truly thinks Obama is a fraud and “a fairy tale” and feels like he and Obama – gifted, young, charismatic prodigies whose promise was to rebrand the Democratic Party. Bill did not do what Reagan did, give his ideological fellow travelers the language to go forth and win elections for a generation, the way Reagan did with “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” Bill Clinton did not grow the party or leave it a lasting legacy. Obama seems like the first politician in the Democratic Party in recent memory to give the party a blueprint for how to win with an easily understandable and transferable language. Obama’s seems to be “I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.” Whether Obama can accomplish this is an open question, obviously. But a real part of the enthusiasm among his supporters is a sense of that potential realignment. Bill didn’t realign the political playing field during his tenure, and indeed the country lurched rightward under his tenure, and he knows it. He won twice, but still… he coulda been a contender.
A few minutes into the speech and I’m not feeling it, to be truthful. The words are there, but I don’t feel it. Maybe it’s my personal filter. Feels tepid. Still more to come…
6:53 MDT: With Bill Clinton coming up in a few minutes, the key is to beat the spread. In politics, it’s about beating the expectations, and the spread right now is fairly low for Bill. For Hillary, most people expected a consummately professional speech, no less impressive that she delivered. For Bill, the question is, will he talk about his own legacy, or will he become Barack Obama’s #1 Fan? Or somewhere in between? The more Bill speaks about Obama and the more he beats the spread, the more of a home run he can be. If Bill spends 30 minutes or however long speaking and recites his legacy, it’s ironically not going to wear well with a large number of Democrats (who remember the 90s and don’t need a history lesson), particularly those who feel strongly that Bill has been behaving badly this political season. If he wants to take his cleanest shot at repairing his legacy in the eyes of African-American voters (and even corn-fed white Midwestern guys like me), he’d be wise to swing for the fences in an Obama endorsement tonight. I believe he cares deeply about his image in an African-American community that genuinely loved him. What will he do? That’s the big question.
6:43 MDT: Hump Night at the DNC, and we’re trying something a little different tonight, with me in the Big Tent and Nate twittering from the Pepsi Center. Bear with us if there are any technical issues.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Guy I Worked For) came into the Big Tent not long ago, so that was a personal highlight. Also Maya Soetoro-Ng came in earlier and randomly planted a kiss on my cheek, which I suppose means I may be marrying into the Obama family soon. I’ll run it by my girlfriend after the convention to see if that’ll fly. Quinn/Schweitzer 2016, eh? Don’t worry, in the interest of objectivity I will try and be kissed by a member of John McCain’s family in St. Paul next week.
Evan Bayh is speaking, the sound died in the Big Tent, and nobody seems to have noticed. With the sound off, I am more persuaded by the speech.