Like many people who voted for President Obama in 2008, I went into watching the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida with a sense of dread. I knew that the GOP, deciding they were not bound by the need for facts, would throw stink bomb after stink bomb at the President and the Democrats. I had to force myself to watch, fully expecting a massive perfectly produced info-mercial for a Romney Presidency. The speakers would invoke a Norman-Rockwell image of America, and stoke a fire under voter impatience with a sluggish economic recovery. It would be a media blitz that Democrats would never be able to compete with, and would leave supporters of the President even more disheartened.
What a difference two weeks makes, huh?
The crowd in the hall in Tampa was overwhelmingly older and white. I watched the cameras focus on the same three African Americans so often I found myself feeling embarrassed for them. The demographic problem on the floor of the GOP convention served only to amplify the argument that Republican sponsored "Voter Fraud prevention" efforts are clearly more about preventing people who don't look like the GOP convention delegates, from getting to the polls.
But what was most striking about the GOP convention was the lack of any clear message of why Americans should vote FOR Mitt Romney. There was lots of air time spent on why Americans should vote AGAINST President Obama. But even the convention's marquee speakers seemed to go out of their way to NOT mention their own party's nominee. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's speech was a total non-case for electing Mitt Romney in 2012 and a clear kick off speech for a Christie 2016 campaign.
Then we had what is now the most memorable moment of the entire GOP gathering. Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood and.... the Chair.
The Eastwood disaster would go on to overshadow the most important speech of Mitt Romney's political life to date.
So we move on to the following week.. This past week in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Democrats found themselves feeling .... unexpectedly pretty good. But this being the Democratic Party, a party that has a clear historical track record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at every opportunity; I was still nervous. The Democratic Convention had to hit the ball out of the park from Day One. So still feeling a sense of trepidation, I sat down on our couch, and tuned into the CSPAN feed being carried on the BBC Parliament channel, and saw this...
Michelle Obama, Julian Castro, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick didn't just hit home runs, they all knocked the ball clear out of the park. I found myself sitting on the edge of the couch, my eyes glued to the screen and for the first time since the 2010 midterms, thinking the Democrats may actually know what they are doing!
Still, the roller coaster of ups and downs that has been the past four years has taught me to be more cautious than optimistic. Fully aware than day one could well have been just a well planed fluke. I tuned in for day two.
Like Mitt Romney, Barack Obama may find that his own speech accepting his party's nomination was overshadowed by a previous speaker. But unlike at the GOP convention the speech that overshadowed the President's was a full throttle, brilliantly constructed case for why Americans should vote for Barack Obama, by a man who can truly say he understands what it's like to sit behind the resolute desk in the Oval Office.
What was most striking to me, watching both conventions pretty much gavel to gavel, is how the opposing party responded during the other's convention. During the GOP convention, Democrats and liberal pundits had a field day fact checking the major speeches to point out the inaccuracies and misstatements. The best the GOP could muster during the Democratic shindig were half-hearted whines about how the DNC Platform didn't mention "God" or say how the capital of Israel should move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
When that didn't gain any real traction the big talking point for the GOP and conservative pundits was how the decision to move the last nights speeches indoors from a stadium to convention hall to avoid predicted thunderstorms, was really prompted by a fear of empty seats. What Fox News somehow forgot to report today was how the stadium was in fact sold out, and it poured rain in Charlotte last night.
But as we know, the GOP has decided they are not going be hampered by facts...
The election is still 60 days away, and that is a lifetime in Presidential politics. Attention now shifts towards the upcoming Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. As they say in punditry, anything can happen. But as we turn the page on the 2012 political conventions, it's clear the momentum is with the Democrats.
And it's about time ....