An Overview of the Democrats’ Big Night

I missed part of the speech, so I’ll limit specific comments on the speech itself until I see the whole replay, but what I saw was good and was delivered well. I think Obama did much of what he needed to do and should get a good bounce from it. Now for the spectacle.

The video was okay, and very effective in painting Obama as a regular guy. What I took away from it though was the question “But what has he done that would make him qualified to be president?” After watching the video it seemed to me that the only thing he had been doing since graduating law school was talking to people about their problems and learning what they want to hear. Then a few short years ago he was elected to the Senate. I thought there would be some attempt to show any experience Obama has that he could take to the presidency — beyond listening to people talk and being a freshman Senator, that is.

What I found most striking about the speech was the theatrical aspect. What the huge venue took away from the event was the intimacy of past conventions. The people seemed to be miles away from the candidate — and not just physically. I thought back on the 1992 nomination of Bill Clinton and remembered the Clintons and the Gores at the close of the evening clapping and dancing around on stage, grinning from ear to ear, waving and winking at friends in the audience. Everyone was part of the proceedings and it was infectious. The audience tonight seemed more spectators than participants even though there was genuine emotion and reaction from the crowd. There were many more huge crowd shots than there usually are, which makes sense considering the spectacle of the venue, but it resulted in what seemed to be less shots of individual delegates and their reactions to the speech. Time will tell if the rock star effect of the presentation will be a positive or a negative, but I suspect it is either a wash or a bit of a turnoff to those who are not already Obama converts. The success of the speech itself though should provide a good bounce for Obama.

Here is the reaction from the Fox pundits. Juan Williams said good, but he didn’t know if he closed the sale. Bill Kristol said he exceeded expectations with a very impressive speech. Nina Easton said this was the same old liberal speech, but better delivered. Fred Barnes and Brit Hume liked the theatrics. Fred Barnes commented on Obama’s line about being ready to debate McCain on temperament, saying that McCain was ready to debate Obama all summer, but Obama refused to participate in the town meetings proposed by McCain. Charles Krauthamer called it a generic Democratic speech because Obama knows that if he runs as the generic Democrat he wins. He thought it was a good strategy. Several talked about the lines of the speech that will turn off business and entrepreneurs — said it appeals more to the working class constituency that he lost to Hillary and must win back. Frank Luntz said Obama was not able to talk about his experience since he is lacking there, but that the speech was really good and the week long attention given to the Democrats would likely result in a 10 point bounce for Obama.

Tonight the speculation over McCain’s VP pick grows. Pawlenty is the only name I am hearing now, and he has cleared his media appearances that had been scheduled for tomorrow. Regardless of what I am hearing though, I always wonder until the last minute whether or not a head fake is being orchestrated. Fortunately we won’t have long to wait until the official announcement which will be tomorrow at noon in Ohio.

Update: Here is the transcript of the speech.

John in Carolina is noting the Clinton omission.

Update II: One thing I forgot to mention! (I can’t believe I forgot this.) As soon as Obama finished his speech the excellent Brooks & Dunn song “Only in America” was played. (I think it was played at the event and not just on the channel I was watching as part of the coverage.) If you have never heard the song you must not have ever been to a Republican campaign event. It has been a staple at the events I have attended and rightly so. It is the perfect song to make you feel good about America. I am just not used to hearing Democrats use it. Brooks & Dunn have been big supporters of President Bush, and I believe of John McCain, and it is a country song. I wonder if they gave permission for use of the song or if they were unaware that it was going to be used. If the song was not played in the stadium, but rather was added to the television coverage I watched, then never mind. I almost positive it was played as part of the event though.

Update III: Newsbusters has some of the tough, objective MSNBC reaction to the speech:

KEITH OLBERMANN: And now at this hour Barack Obama is officially the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States. Vote for him or do not but take pride that this nation can produce men and speakers such as that. For 42 minutes not a sour note and spellbinding throughout in way usually reserved for the creations of fiction. An extraordinary political statement. Almost a fully realized, tough, crisp, insistent speech in tone and in the sense of cutting through the clutter. Akin to the words that were given to the fictional title character in that Aaron Sorkin film, The American President, only this “cut the crap!” moment is not the stuff of fiction. This is the real thing out here. I’d love to find something to criticize about it. You got anything?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: No. You know I’ve been criticized for saying he inspires me and to hell with my critics!

[Correction: I referred to Nina Easton in an earlier version of this post as “Nina Tottenberg,” but have now made the correction above. My sincere apologies to Ms. Easton.]

Update IV: Joshua Trevino sees the speech as a failure. He says Obama could have put the race away tonight, but didn’t and now leaves open the opportunity for McCain to take advantage of Obama’s lost opportunity.

Barack Obama’s acceptance remarks this evening should be a source of relief to every Republican, conservative, and McCain supporter in America. The Democratic nominee for President walked to the podium with every advantage: eloquent, attractive, historic, gifted with a polling advantage, and bathed in the bright lights of one of the great football stadiums of America. He walked away from the podium having squandered every one of them. Barack Obama’s candidacy is not done by a long shot — he’ll have a post-convention polls bounce, and the electoral terrain is still favorable — but he could have put a victory in the bag this evening. He failed.

Read it all.

The Media Cheer Obama's Speech
Obama Acceptance Speech Reaction - Open Thread