Thursday, September 6, 2012
I know, I know, I am going out of turn. I thought that I could throw in a couple of quick reactions to President Clinton's speech before you gush uncontrollably about the former boss. I figure I owe you that for throwing off the publishing schedule by not emailing you early enough yesterday.
I don't really know how you kick back and celebrate success, but I am guessing there were at least a few moments of satisfied revelry late last night in the Kirby house. Quiet, of course, so as not to wake the kiddos. Unless you had Finn and Emmy up to watch the master at work. "See kids, this is how it's done."
First, let me say that there are professionals out there writing about this stuff that remind me why I am not paid to do this. Here's a perfect example from John Cassidy of The New Yorker. Two quotes from his blog that say what I wish I had said about the Clinton-Obama dynamic and why it made last night's speech so powerful:
"In a sense, Clinton’s reluctance to embrace Obama personally, and his own fraught history with the President, which I explored in a piece for The New Yorker this week, makes him the ideal spokesman to appeal to those skeptical former Obama voters that his campaign is trying to win back."
"A subtext of the address was that, just like Bill Clinton, wavering voters need not love Obama to understand that he’s a better choice than Romney."
In a way, this is the perfect counter-point to the subtext argument I claimed was one of the takeaways from the RNC.
"I understand you were excited in '08. It is ok you strayed. We forgive you. You didn't know any better. Look around and realize you didn't get what you were hoping for. Come on back".
You got caught up and lost your damn mind versus I just need some more time, baby.
Another fascinating argument Clinton made last night is about which party should be trusted to create jobs. He argued that the "jobs score" over the last fifty years is a blowout Democrat win. Of the 66 million private sector jobs created in that time, Clinton claimed that 42 million came in Democratic administrations. And Politifact agrees.
The fact check produced a fascinating chart, showing that George W. Bush was an absolute train wreck of a presidency. Big shock, I know. But it also gives us this score:
Bill Clinton: Increase of 20.8 million jobs
Barack Obama: Increase of 332,000 jobs
No wonder he is the messenger.
Yesterday, I said that the Dems want to turn this into Clinton's 90's vs. Bush's 00's. But it sounds like, at least when it comes to job creation, they can be even more broad than that. Hand up vs. trickle down.
I know we talked months ago about how Team Chicago wanted to use the month-by-month job creation chart to make their "It's getting better" argument. The economic slowing of the past few months has made that chart less enticing. Maybe this Politifact chart is the replacement. With it as the centerpiece, they can make the argument that, though the first four years haven't been as promised, Dems are still more trustworthy stewards of the economy and job creation than the GOP.
I bet we will see this again.
Lastly, I saw this tweet from Joe Scarborough that I thought made the same point you and I have been talking about for months now:
Morning Joe @Morning_Joe
@JoeNBC: No comparison between Tampa & Charlotte. GOP has been lapped in stagecraft, in speech writing, in speech performances, in every way
No doubt, and last night was the perfect example of it.
I can't wait to hear what @SpencerianBlue had to say about last night's speech. The only retorts from @SpencerianRed were weak fact-checks, arguments for credit due the GOP congress of the 90's and sardonic tweets like this:
Moira Rogers (Bree)@moirarogersbree
According to twitter, Clinton just revived Dumbledore, saved the Titanic, destroyed the Death Star and punched out Chuck Norris.
Retweeted by Erick Erickson
If that's all they've got, the next two months are going to be rough for Team Romney.
Eagerly awaiting your thoughts,
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Thursday, September 6, 2012
I'll admit to you that what I thought might happen is exactly what happened: I watched the Clinton speech and got really emotional, mostly for selfish reasons. Mostly because it was a pretty good trip down memory lane. Mostly because I still feel a swell of pride when Bill Clinton gives a speech -- especially a speech like that -- and I know in some small, mostly insignificant way, I was a brief part of the history he made.
But also because I think it was a pivotal moment, not just for the Convention, but maybe even for the country. A lot of folks are saying Obama will have a tough time following Clinton. Maybe, and maybe not just with respect to who delivers a better speech. Only a couple of guys can change the narrative. Last night, I think President Clinton did just that.
The Boss was at peak performance. He didn't just bring the A-game, he re-wrote the rules for the A-game. On the fly. I know I intimated that in this speech he might be more forward-looking, less about attacking Romney. I'm embarrassed. I should have known better. Only Bill Clinton could pull off both... and make it look so easy.
One of my favorite moments came when a conservative I follow (out of the Spencerian Blue feed) spent more than a dozen or more tweets trying without much success to hack apart the Clinton speech. It was all snark, backed up by... more snark. Even in the sharper "barbs" -- "Heh. Slick Willy throwing some game at Michelle. Nice." -- had an aura of weakness and fear.
Nearly twenty tweets attempting -- and failing -- to find some reasonable fault with Clinton's speech, and the twentieth tweet was this: "Dear @barackobama, good luck following this guy. Good freaking luck."
A similar sentiment has been displayed by more articulate -- and more powerful -- Republicans. From GOP strategist Alex Castellanos after Clinton's speech on CNN:
“This convention is done. This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama.”
Now, I could go on and on about the virtues of the Clinton speech, but you and most folks either saw it or can get the details of it somewhere else. A couple of practical points.
You said this earlier, pre-speech:
My guess is that Clinton will say things tonight that will soon creep into Obama's stump speeches, will show up in his debate responses, will be go-to lines for Cutter and LaBolt.
He didn't just "say things" -- you could co-opt his speech, line by line, and use it as the daily tip-sheet I get every day from the campaign, or tweet it from here to Election Day, and it would probably work. Clinton went off-script -- and after the guy being on the national stage for more than twenty years, you'd think people wouldn't be so goddamed surprised when that happens -- but it was worth every minute, every line.
You and I once had a conversation about the nature of Bill Clinton and his speaking style, and even his Presidency, with respect to generational differences. Now, you'll correct me if I'm wrong, but you (or was it someone else?) said that Clinton is a old-style media President in a new media world. He doesn't speak in Twitter-sized sound bites, doesn't make for easy Facebook wall posts.
In re-evaluating that idea, I come to disagree with the notion, and would say last night's speech will serve, at the very least, as a long-lasting gold-mine of campaign-trail rhetorical ammunition for Team Obama.
A final, more practical campaign point, speaking of the campaign trail. Bill Clinton may be the finest Presidential speaker in a generation, maybe more. Obama may challenge that tonight -- he'd better. Point is, for as good a speaker as Clinton is, he's equally as good (maybe better) a retail campaigner. And on the ground, this is a close election.
Clinton, properly deployed, could make the difference not just in critical swing states like here in Florida (a virtual dead heat right now) and up in Ohio (another dead heat), he could seal the deal in other states like Iowa (leaning Obama, but basically yet another dead heat), or even the home of the Convention, North Carolina (where Romney is leading, but barely).
He could be not just a critical factor in re-electing President Obama (on the off-chance Mr. Castellanos was wrong and it wasn't sealed up last night), he could help swing several of the competitive U.S. House and Senate races to Democrats. Despite Todd Akin's offensive comments, the Senate race in Missouri is close. (By the way, Romney is ahead by twelve there, but I would point out that Bill Clinton won those 11 Electoral Votes in 1992 and again in 1996; Obama lost Missouri in 2008.) Another state that's actually closer than you think on the Presidential front is Tennessee (Romney only up by 3.5). That's another 11 Electoral Votes, again won by Clinton in '92 and '96, lost by Obama in '08 (and lost by Tennessee's Al Gore in 2000, by the way).
President Clinton not only proved his relevancy, last night he established himself as a contender and a major force in this election. Funny, that seems to come as a surprise to a lot of people.
Not to me. Some of us have known it all along.
I still believe, Matt.
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Thursday, September 6, 2012
I am glad you were able to take a moment last night to remember the good times. We don't always take advantage of those opportunities and we should. There are plenty of people out there with good memories of the Clinton years, and though less personally connected to the Man himself, they may still be quite powerful. If Chicago can find a way to capitalize on that in November and not just this week, it is good news for another 4 years of Barack and Co.
So, to stay on message, I am going to pivot "forward" to tonight. There is no doubt that Clinton raised the rhetorical bar for POTUS. The question is whether or not he will even try to reach it. I think that Obama's speech tonight will be very different - more like a State of the Union Address than a political convention speech. Clinton's systematic dismantling of the GOP arguments gives him that freedom. The big curiosity for me surrounds tonight's takeaway. Last night was all about four more years of blue. What will tonight's be and how closely will it be connected to Obama himself? After all, when the curtain closes, you are voting for a person and not a party. Is the personal loyalty still there? Tonight's events will go a long way to answering that question.
The biggest key for tonight, then, is to rebuild and restore personal faith in Barack Obama. Tonight has got to be about him. A gaffe or a spotlight theft would not be good. On that front, it is a good thing that they have taken the Clint Eastwood danger and split it - Uncle Joe will cover the rambling old white man portion of it while (reportedly) Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johnansson and Eva Longoria cover the Hollywood side. Apparently, John Legend and Foo Fighters are on tap as well. This made a whole lot more sense in the context of Bank of America Field, oops, I mean Panthers Stadium. Inside, it almost gives it a rally crossed with an awards show feel. The night could end up feeling really odd and out of place when compared with the time-tested and smooth feel of last night. Either way it will be interesting.
As for what the President must accomplish, I think that he finds himself in a bit of a box. Looking forward is great, but the GOP has been successfully dinging him for months about promises and platitudes that have not manifested in results. I do not think that more promises or platitudes will change that. I think that America has heard enough Barack Obama soaring speeches and is not looking for another one. In fact, one of the most effective GOP ads I have seen recently is just a compilation of Obama '08 quotes matched to their repeated quotes - many times the wording is exact - from the current cycle. It is devastating in its indictment of campaign promises.
Given that reality, I am not sure what America is looking for from its 44th President tonight.
I will be listening for his pitch to keep and re-engage those who were caught up in the historic, optimistic and heady days of '08. I will be listening for his pitch to the younger generation - who supported him 2 to 1 the last time around. I will be listening for debt and deficit ideas. I will be listening for the two or three hashtagable lines that will carry a chosen message for the next two months.
I think it was actually my old boss and not yours who I was referring to when I talked about old media. Bob Graham's brilliance was meant for a time of Common Sense, not #2012. Clinton has always had the ability to turn a phrase - as he reminded us all so well last night. I think our current President falls somewhere in between. The twitterization of the campaign cycle has helped him but has also derailed him at times. As numerous studies have shown, Democrats are much more likely to be active on social media - they pretty much dominate the space. I think that this has served to mask Obama's snippet weakness. But the full glare is in effect tonight and hashtags will emerge either way.
What will it be tonight?
Back to you,
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Welcome to a special Democratic Convention Edition of Into the Echo Chamber, the weekly electronic conversation of the 2012 presidential campaign as viewed from two Twitter feeds. Matt Spence is monitoring the Twitterverse of the Romney Campaign, Republicans, and the "red" side of the aisle at @SpencerianRed. I am monitoring the tweets of the Obama Team, Democrats and the blue team using @SpencerianBlue. Our email-based back-and-forths are normally posted here on Thursdays.
For the week of the Democratic Convention, we will be attempting to post one exchange per day. Stay tuned.