The Democratic Convention has finally come together. It has hit all the big themes, including the Iraq war and national security, just as those issues re-emerge after months of domestic focus.
One of the other things that Barack Obama has had to do is define himself and his family. Watching Michelle Obama throughout this week, I think she has come to be - through this convention, through her own speech, the video of her life - as a real figure and a likable person. I think anybody that couldn't see her in the White House before this convention could certainly see her there now.
You've got to keep thinking about John Kerry and John Edwards four years ago. You know, they left the convention also on a very high note - and of course went on to lose the election.
But this party has come together — three weeks ago, not many would have said you were going to see the Democratic Party on the eve of Barack Obama's speech where they are tonight.
Now it's up to Obama to go into that great stadium with the generals and the panoply of all these folks and pull it all together and be formidable.
That's the real question. Can he be formidable enough?
Barack Obama is getting the convention he wants, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The convention he is building reflects him and his priorities: it’s thoughtful, not just red-meat; and he’s in surprising control of the message, given the forces he’s dealing with. Indeed, the convention-building and the message may be far more sophisticated and effective than we instant commentators were prepared to discern. Witness the opening night grousing on-air about the convention’s supposed thematic absence, and aversion to instant butchery of the opposition.
A few observations as the convention is about to convene:
This is Barack Obama’s convention. It will have his stamp on it, including ushering the Clintons off center-stage and into supporting roles-however reluctantly.
It is also a Democratic Party convention, with threads of history and some immutable principles since the 1960s-especially regarding civil rights, women’s rights, and a certain perspective on economic issues. The Clintons are (whatever their shortcomings) a big part of that story, especially the successful parts: Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to be
elected twice to the presidency since FDR.
The Clintons-like Ted Kennedy, who will be powerfully present tonight-do not want to see the presidency turned over to John McCain or four more years of Republican policies: remember, they have spent their adult lives fighting against the Republican Right….even to the extent of Hillary Clinton labeling it “the vast right-wing conspiracy.”