Friday, September 05, 2008

A Convention Roundup

The two parties conventions are over. Now the campaign begins in earnest. How did they do?

The Democratic National Convention was a mess. It was a good-looking one but a mess, never the less. In modern politics, the purpose of the convention is to sell the candidate. Everything else is secondary. So what did the Democrats do?

The first night was split between Michelle Obama and a tribute to Ted Kennedy. Michelle was practicing damage control after some widely-repeated remarks earlier in the campaign. Kennedy was a distraction.

The next two nights featured the Clintons. This is where the convention really failed. They felt that they had to give Hillary speaking time in order to reconcile her followers with Obama. They also felt that they had to give Bill Clinton speaking time. I'm not sure why since Obama (and Hillary) ran campaigns promising the end of Bill's compromises with the Republicans. Neither Bill nor Hillary made more than a token effort to elect Obama. any momentum from the first night was lost.

Joe Biden gave a speech somewhere in there. No one paid attention.

Obama was the main even on Thursday. Instead of addressing the convention, he addressed a campaign rally. He stood on an O-shaped island with a backdrop of Greek columns. His speech was toned down quite a bit from some of his other rhetoric. He didn't say anything like "We are the ones we have been waiting for" (translation; I am the one you have been waiting for). He didn't repeat his assertion that he would stop the oceans from rising and would heal the earth. He did go through a long laundry list of new programs and give-aways. Better yet, he said that he would reduce taxes and insurance payments for 95% of the country and pay for it all without new taxes.

Obama's ratings were through the roof - around 40% of the country watched.

The Democrats left their convention feeling pretty good about themselves. The Republican convention was to start a couple of days later on a holiday, Bush would be addressing the convention, and a hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans, threatening to cancel the Republican convention.

But there were some whispers that things weren't going so well. The old-timers were concerned that Obama wasn't attacking strongly enough. according to some reports, the stadium crowd wasn't impressed by Obama's speech. Where normally uninspired speakers like Gore and Kerry had given the speech of their life, Obama's was rather ordinary... especially for him.

Then things really went sour. McCain announced a surprise VP pick - Sarah Palin from Alaska. The Democrats' first response was to jump on her hard in the hope that they could hurt her reputation enough that she would have to withdraw. McCain's candidacy would have never recovered. Nothing was too extreme in this blitz. It failed and left the Democrats looking mean and petty. Obama had to denounce his supporters more than once.

The hurricane helped the Republicans far more than it hurt them. The first night of the convention was cancelled. This solved the problem of what to do about President Bush. He was too busy to address the convention in person. He ended up making a short address by satellite.

With an hour of airtime to fill, the networks covered the hurricane. The only real story there was how much everything had improved over Katrina.

The Republicans compressed their convention into three nights, all devoted to selling McCain and Palin. Palin's speech on Wednesday established her as a rising Republican star and matched Obama's ratings. McCain's speech on Thursday wasn't as inspired but he did manage to tie his POW experiences to his candidacy. Overnight estimates of his ratings put him higher than Obama.

So, where does this leave us? Often the conventions will give a candidate a bump in the polls that is enough to win the election. Clinton got a huge bump in 1992. Bush was running behind Kerry in 2004 until the Republican convention gave him a bump. On the other hand, Kerry got a slight negative bump, possibly because he overplayed the "reporting for duty" bit. McCain is in danger of doing this with his time as a POW but has not reached that point.

Obama got a slight bump from the Democratic convention but it only put him back to where he was in June. That bump has vanished by now. McCain is not showing much of a bump, either. He is back to running slightly behind but within the margin of error.

The real indicator is the electoral college. Polling by state is out-of-date and still reflects Obama's temporary bump.

With the two candidates running neck and neck, the debates will probably produce a winner. That is bad news for Obama. He is not as good without a script. He has poor instincts and the first thing he says is often wrong. His statement about meeting with hostile foreign powers without pre-condition came from a debate and he is still trying to live that one down. Expectations are lower for McCain which, as with Bush, makes it easier to win a debate.

1 comment:

林依晨Amber said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.