5 hits and 5 misses from DNC, Day 1

5 hits:

  1. Michelle Obama. The First  Lady rose to the challenge of evoking the origins and values that brought her and her husband to the White House. There was much in those families’ stories for many American families to relate to. And when she said, “Being President does not change who you are. No. It reveals who you are,” it was fundamentally believable from her perspective. She was as Americans have come to know her: Direct, serious, logical, passionate about the issues she cares about. It was clear that her husband’s Presidency is first among those.
  2. Julian Castro. He’s not as thrilling a speaker as Barack Obama, but he comes up huge in authenticity. It’s about being real, and recognizing where you come from. It’s about the values you care about, and Julian Castro has authenticity. His speaking style is clear, within himself, not overstated, but flowing with passion. This may have been the least contrived and most basically honest speech of the convention cycle. He makes a convincing case that he will pay the opportunity he has received forward in the form of opportunity for many more people before his career in public service is finished. He was a very sound choice to keynote this convention.
  3. Cory Booker. The passion for public service, the intellect, the clarity of purpose that have made him a revered leader in Newark were clearly on display. Not a natural orator, he overcame his so-so speaking tools with sincerity and conviction.
  4. Tammy Duckworth. Her military discipline and her refusal to indulge in an ounce of self-pity, combined with the compassion she clearly feels for her fellow wounded warriors, are the essence of leadership. The heroes who saved her life after she was grievously injured when an RPG exploded in her lap as she was flying a combat helicopter – a heroism, by the way, beyond anything Hollywood could conjure – saved more than the life of their fellow soldier. They saved a great leader for this country.
  5. Affordable Care Act testimonials. The real-people stories setting the record straight on the benefits already in effect under the law were stunningly powerful.  No number of bloviating politicians can trump a 2-year-old who needs repeated open-heart surgeries.

5 Misses:

  1. Bev Perdue. The governor of North Carolina seemed like a deer in the headlights. She followed Cory Booker, which wasn’t the easiest assignment. But compare her performance to that of Anthony Foxx, and she loses the host-speaker contest. By a mile.
  2. Robert Wexler. His speech supporting  President Obama’s policies regarding Israel was a DBI – dull but important – and so tough to pull off. But it was not executed well, coming off as defensive and tedious.
  3. Nancy Keenan. The NARAL chief was powerful and articulate. But she went on too long. The story of her father, while touching, was applied only tangentially to her subject.  Too many speakers at both conventions forget to leave when they have the audience with them, and consequently overstay their welcomes. She was one.
  4. Harry Reid. The Majority Leader of the Senate gave one of the evening’s most forgettable speeches. You look at the words and there’s nothing the matter with them. What came out was less inspiring than the sum of those words.
  5. Martin O’Malley. The attack lines were overdrawn and had a Ryanesque tinge of unfairness and snarkiness about them. He came up small in a prime-time spot that could have made him a lot bigger.
David McCumber, Washington Bureau Chief