Previewing Obama’s Speech

Bill Clinton’s speech was a bot of a wild card since he talks extemporaneously on any subject at length so anything was possible once he stepped to the podium.  President Obama is very different.  He relies on soaring rhetoric and aspirational words to move voters into his column.  His problem this year is his rhetoric must overcome the economic reality of his policies.  Ben Feller takes a pretty decent stab at what to expect tonight:

Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday will be about promise – the kind he’ll say he has kept, and the kind of feeling he wants to stir once more. He will take people back to the start of his presidency to make a case why their lives are better, but his bigger imperative is to sell himself as better for middle-class America than Republican Mitt Romney.

Gone is the newness of the last time he stood up to accept the nomination of his party. Obama, the graying incumbent, will not try to recreate it. Instead, he will whittle the election down to a choice, spelling out his vision of how to create economic opportunity for all, and warning that Romney would restore trickle-down ideas that Obama says were quietly gutting the economy for years before crashing it completely. That’s the policy part. Obama will also try to summon inspiration again that America is right on the cusp of what it could be.

Democrats opted for their convention’s rented basketball arena instead of a much larger, open-air football stadium for Obama, wary of the safety and political risks if rain came pouring down. Yet louder, tighter quarters of energized supporters could present just the optics Obama wants on TV. He must give his backers and undecided voters a reason to mobilize behind him.

In a nation in which more than 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed, Obama will focus instead on the millions who have found work, and how many more can, too. He will talk of education and energy and innovation and job training. He will ask for more time.

Obama’s speech will cover the dominant themes of his campaign. Those will include government as an enforcer of fairness and consumer protection, leadership as demanding compromise with the other party, financial stability as requiring that rich people pay more taxes. He will likely portray Romney, who made a fortune in business, as so focused on limited government that he would leave people to struggle on their own and to hope for the best.

By night’s end, he wants teetering voters to emerge with two takeaways about him – a sense that he made tough decisions, and a sense of clarity about what he would do in a second term. Expect him to talk about ending the war in Iraq and promising to close the still-raging war in Afghanistan, particularly after mocking Romney for never addressing the latter in his own convention speech. Every speaker at the Democratic convention has contributed to the collective message that Obama wants to send of a diverse party that protects gay rights and women’s reproductive rights.

Yet it all comes back to the economy, Obama’s biggest burden. “It’s clear the president just hasn’t lived up to his promises,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “Jobs have declined, incomes have plummeted and household costs are skyrocketing.”…The make-or-break election for the nation, as he likes to call it, is one for his political future as well.

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