August 26, 2008


Carville: This Convention Has No Message (Jake Tapper, August 26, 2008, ABCNews: Political Punch)

On CNN this evening, Clintonista James Carville voiced his displeasure with tonight's proceedings as having no theme, no message.

"James Carville seems the least satisfied Democrat in here right now," noted CNN's Anderson Cooper. "What's going on James?"

"Well if this party has a message it has done a hell of a job of hiding it tonight I promise you that," Carville said.

...Mr. Carville had a far easier task in '92. With the GOP base angered by the incumbent's reversal on taxes and with a second rightwing candidate in the race, all they had to do was present Bill Clinton as a Democrat who had moved on from the '70s and accepted the Thatcher/Reagan '80s, especially the economics thereof. Once you'd established that Mr. Clinton wasn't a liberal he became a viable alternative, though he still only managed to garner 43% of the popular vote.

But Senator Obama just won his party's nominations by dominating the caucuses, where those who turn out are stuck in the 70s. Because his main opponent was President Clinton's wife, Mr. Obama effectively ran against the Democratic Party of the 1990s, Bill Clinton's New Democrats. Now he has to completely reverse his field and scramble to the Right, which can't help but appear craven or hypocritical. Moreover, he doesn't have the advantage of a well-funded third party challenger from the Right nor of running against the incumbent. Indeed, for the past eight years his own party and the media have crafted an image--though they suddenly realize its absurdity--of John McCain as a Maverick who is nothing like his own party. So Mr. Obama not only has to invert the established narrative about himself but the one about his foe, and that's an awful lot to ask anyone to get done in just four months, nevermind in four days.

Michelle Obama’s Two Americas: At the convention, a new and radically different message from the candidate’s wife. (Byron York, 8/26/08, National Review)

In Denver, Mrs. Obama said, “My piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me.” Those forebears, she explained, were “driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work — the same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country…That’s why I love this country.”

In Charlotte, Mrs. Obama said, “We’re still living in a time and in a nation where the bar is set, right?…You start working hard and sacrificing and you think you’re getting close to that bar, you’re working and you’re struggling, and then what happens? They raise the bar…keep it just out of reach.”

Had something changed in the last few months? In the early primaries, Mrs. Obama often gave complaining speeches. It was in late February that she said the now-famous words, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” In other speeches, she grumbled — sometimes at length — about having to pay back her college loans. And she, as much as her husband, was associated with the anti-American rants of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The images began to accumulate. By the later months of the Democratic primary race, when her husband was stumbling to victory after a powerful stretch of wins in February, Mrs. Obama’s approval ratings began to slip. She was still not widely known at the time, but it seemed the more voters got to know her, the more they began to have reservations about her.

In May, the Pew Research Center found that 22 percent of people polled had an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Obama. In July, an Associated Press poll showed that she had a 35 percent unfavorable rating — versus a 30 percent favorable figure. A couple of weeks ago, a the Rasmussen polling organization found that 43 percent of voters had an unfavorable impression of Mrs. Obama.

The lady doth protest too little (Spengler, 8/26/08, Asia Times)
Michelle Obama's negatives in opinion polls are the worst ever registered for a candidate's wife, deep enough, perhaps, to turn the election against Barack. Presumably that is why the Democratic Party wheeled out a chipper, perky, sunny and smiling African-American female who claimed to be Michelle Obama in the keynote slot of its national convention Monday night. This alleged Michelle Obama bore a striking physical resemblance to the candidate's wife observed during the campaign, but the differences in attitude and rhetoric were extreme enough to warrant verification.

Mrs Obama's appearance was the star event on an otherwise lackluster first evening. She was introduced by her brother, basketball coach Craig Robinson, who mentioned that as a child she had memorized every episode of the popular television comedy, The Brady Bunch. [...]

Never before has a candidate's wife delivered a major address to a national convention of either party. The break in precedent stems evidently from the urgent need to remake the image built up by sections of the media of Michelle Obama as a rancorous and resentful woman. But it also may reflect the extraordinary degree of her influence in her husband's campaign. She is reported to have ruled out Senator Hillary Clinton as a vice presidential candidate, although polls showed that Clinton would strengthen the ticket more than any other choice.

Pretty hard to present a unified and coherent message when a part of the convention has to be devoted to making the candidate's wife seem less anti-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 26, 2008 6:38 AM
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