The Democratic National Convention got off to a rousing start in Charlotte, N.C., this week, and first lady Michelle Obama got rave reviews for telling her family’s life story. Speaker after speaker derided Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and the party delegates roared their approval.
The focus turned to former President Bill Clinton last night. Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama wrap things up tonight. Clinton had the misfortune of having to compete with the NFL’s season-opening game between the Dallas Cowboys and the world champion New York Giants.
You can’t help but be amused at how the networks analyzed coverage of the opening night of the Democrats’ pep rally. It depended on their political slant — liberal, conservative and everything in between. Independent media appear to be fading from the American scene.
MSNBC’s liberalism came through loud and clear. Lawrence O’Donnell really got carried away.
“There is now no question who the best speechmaker in the history of the first ladyship is, and that is Michelle Obama,” O’Donnell said. “We have to remember that most first ladies up until the television age never gave a speech, but still, among those who have, there has never been a speaker who could deliver what we just saw.”
Chris Wallace, an analyst on the conservative Fox News, called the first lady’s speech “masterful and heartfelt,” but noted the difference in tone from the Republican convention.
“I’ve got to say, listening closely to the speech one of the things that struck me was it was all about government. …,” Wallace said.
“When she talked about ways to build the middle class, it was all about the auto bailout and student loans and health care reform, once again, all government programs. … That was a subtle subtext to the entire speech.”
Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times talked about “a parade of officials telling voters that Mitt Romney does not get it and with a rousing speech from Michelle Obama making the case that President Obama does.” He said Romney was hit hard on immigration, health care, Medicare, foreign policy and the 2009 automotive industry bailout.
Rutenberg did note that the convention program never addressed the disappointment of wavering Obama voters who are dissatisfied with his handling of the economy. He said Republicans will be certain to remind them of that omission.
Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post said it was obvious the Democrats are making a serious effort to appeal to women, Latinos and young people. Republicans are trying to woo those same voters, and that has proved to be difficult so far. Tumulty also talked about the class warfare Democrats are waging against Romney.
“One speaker after another mocked Romney’s wealth, his past inconsistencies on issues such as abortion, and his party’s dedication to policies that would shrink government and benefit the richest of Americans,” she said.
Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, delivered the keynote speech and joined the class warfare battle against Romney.
“I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.”
David Lauter of the Washington Bureau of the Los Angeles Times said the two parties definitely agree that women and Latinos will decide the outcome of the 2012 election. He said Republicans emphasized “general themes of opportunity and enterprise, almost to the exclusion of specific policy proposals.”
“By contrast, the challenge for Democrats is to convince those voters (women and Latinos) that Obama’s presidency has made their lives better despite the poor economy,” Lauter said.
The selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as GOP vice presidential nominee has made reform of Medicare a central issue in the presidential campaign. Democrats have apparently decided the president’s health care reform law is an issue worth touting. Both are controversial, and it will be interesting to see whether they help or hurt on Election Day.
About one issue there is little doubt. The state of the economy and who can best fix it will be the major factor that determines who wins.
The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., talked about the economy’s effect on presidential elections back in February. It said, “Whether fairly or not, voters hold sitting presidents responsible for the state of the economy.”
Incumbent presidents have run for re-election 10 times during the postwar period, the opinion piece said. Seven have won and three have lost.
The winners were Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2004. Brookings said they ran with full employment and low inflation, and won easily. The other winners were Harry Truman in 1948, Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984.
“The winners all had strong job markets going for them,” Brookings said.
The losers were Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. Brookings said each had to confront tough economic issues.
The two nominating conventions will soon be faded memories, and Obama’s re-election chances will be primarily determined by how well Americans are faring when Nov. 6 rolls around.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].