Judged by their performances, the Democrats’ main speakers tonight did a much better job of promoting their candidate and attacking their opponent than the other party did a week ago. By most accounts, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s speech was very effective, and he made some withering criticisms of Romney’s tenure in Massachusetts for which Republicans hadn’t even attempted to prepare. The Republican convention spent so much time dancing around Romney’s only experience in government that they never presented much of a case in favor of it. Ridiculing Romney’s reputation as a problem-solver, Patrick said, “Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them.”
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s speech was extremely combative and filled with populist rhetoric that horrified the pundits listening to it. As heavy-handed as it was, it was probably one of the three most effective speeches of the night. Strickland’s speech was part of a recurring theme of portraying Romney as indifferent or hostile to the economic well-being of the Midwest, and especially Ohio. Even though it is a cynical and manipulative move on their part, the Obama campaign is counting on the fact that Romney is unusually vulnerable to such attacks, and it will be exceedingly difficult for him to win without carrying Ohio. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gave a decent, passable speech that improved towards the end, but in spite of being the keynote speaker his speech will be quickly forgotten by most viewers because it was overshadowed almost completely by the final speech of the night by Michelle Obama.
I should add here that none of what I heard was persuasive, and I don’t think the Democrats were any better at speaking to people outside their party than the Republicans were. Nonetheless, the Democrats far outperformed their opponents in the presentation of their speakers and the delivery of their speeches. They made a reasonably coherent case for Obama’s re-election. That case doesn’t impress me, but it was never going to do that. That will be reflected in the coverage tonight and tomorrow, which is going to be overwhelmingly positive. There are probably as few viewers of this convention as there were last week, and they may be fewer tomorrow, so the way that the evening speeches are covered will make a significant difference in how the convention is perceived.