The morning after last week's Republican Convention, Mitt Romney took off to Louisiana to view the damage caused by Hurricane Isaac. The move apparently caught Barack Obama by surprise. America's empath-in-chief had to scramble his schedule to follow Romney.
That small event capped a convention that generally succeeded in introducing the Romney-Ryan ticket as calm and competent people, a credible team capable of dealing with the nation's economic crisis. The first night of the convention was its best, a parade of Republican governors introducing business people from their states to refute Obama's "you didn't build that" line. Ryan's speech was galvanizing, Romney's passably good, and no one really stepped in the electoral kimchi, which is the underlying fear of every convention manager.
On the last night of the convention, television viewership rose to about 21 million households. As a result, the Republican ticket gained a bounce in the polls which, according to a Rasmussen poll released Sunday, looked to be in the 4-5 point range.
But post-convention poll bounces usually fade after a week or two. Tonight begins the Democrats' turn. Their goals are much different from the Republicans' and for the next three nights we'll see a parade of speakers who will try to blunt the Romney campaign's attacks and sell American voters on the idea, to counter Paul Ryan's memorable phrase, that the next four years of Obama will be better than the last four.
Which is a pretty tall order. There are three million more Americans out of work than there were four years ago, our national debt is more than $5 trillion higher, and the median family income has dropped by about $2,500. Obama's 2008 campaign promised a presidency that would be post-partisan, with a new political order in Washington that made compromise and big solutions to big problems the rule rather than the exception. But partisan conflict is higher than ever because Obama, Reid, and Pelosi's idea of compromise is Republican surrender.
The Republican convention wasn't ideological. The Democrats' will be, from beginning to end. The Dems' ideology will focus on Paul Ryan's budget plan (which they conflate with the alleged Republican desire to deregulate Wall Street's supposedly piratical freedom), Republican obstructionism, and the grim disasters they predict from a Romney presidency.
When we run that through the liberal political computer, the result is what we'll see over the next three nights.
There is no distance between the Democrats' leaders and the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters outside the convention hall who will try to be heard over the media din. Eleven months ago, Obama said that the protesters were a "broad-based frustration about how our financial system works." That comment is entirely consistent with his "you didn't build that" remark on how business people -- no matter how hard they work, no matter how innovative their thinking -- depend on government to succeed.
It's an idea that is deeply embedded in Obama's mind and has become Democratic dogma. It was first revealed in October 2008 when Joe Wurzelbacher -- an Ohio plumber -- had an unscripted conversation on taxes with Obama. Obama said he wanted to raise taxes on the rich and cut taxes for the poor because "right now everybody's so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
The "Joe the Plumber" moment, the "you didn't build that" comment, and the very few other occasions Obama has gone off his script are the only times we have seen into Obama's mind. What you'll see over the next three nights will be as disciplined and scripted as the Democrats can be. What you'll see (unless the Dems go off script) will be a concerted effort to obscure Obama's statist, redistributionist ideology. The convention's speakers will, again and again, repeat the mantra of Republican obstructionism and accuse Republicans of lying about what Obama has said and done.
The second main theme the Democrats will follow is Obama's success as commander-in-chief and statesman. Romney's biggest blunder -- neglecting to even mention the Afghanistan conflict in his acceptance speech -- will be played large. Never mind that the "Arab spring" has brought about a shift in the Middle East empowering the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements. Never mind how the president abandoned Poland's missile defenses and how utterly has Obama's "reset" of relations with Russia has failed. How many times we'll see the faux-dramatic footage of Obama "directing" the SEAL raid that killed bin Laden will be limited only by the desire of speakers to attack the Republicans for their supposed "war on women."
Todd Akin, the knuckleheaded Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, will be mentioned many more times than the war or the economy. Sandra Fluke, the thirty-year old law student and welfare queen, will -- among a parade of other radical feminists -- try to persuade us that free birth control is a right, and that every company, school, and hospital should provide it regardless of religious beliefs.
Pity Bill Clinton. The convention managers have scheduled his speech to conflict with the season kickoff of NFL Football. But Bubba will deliver what is sure to be a bravura performance. Clinton, who doesn't like Obama much, will be the biggest attack dog in the room. He'll go after the Republicans for everything imaginable, trying to answer Paul Ryan's question of why we should expect the next four years of Obama to be better than the last four. (There is no reason for you to miss the game, dear readers. I and the rest of the TAS crew will be watching Bubba so you don't have to.)
The main event, Obama's Thursday night speech, is the biggest risk for the Dems. Obama is an angry man, impatient with politics and intolerant of people who disagree with him. He's probably spent weeks preparing a speech that will try to conceal the anger but raise the tension of the campaign by promising grim disasters, at home and abroad, if Romney is elected.
Let's hope some of the Dems go off script -- and with Bubba, Biden, Pelosi and many others, it's a big risk -- that some fun can be had watching the media squirm. If they remain uncharacteristically disciplined, their convention will probably produce as much of a poll-bounce as the Republicans' did.
The easiest way to gauge the effect of the Dems' convention won't be the polls. Look at the mainstream media's reaction. It's dawned on them that Obama may actually lose, and they're losing their collective minds over that fact. The more fevered their praise, the more heated contrasts they draw between Obama and Romney, the weaker Obama really is. Watch CBS, NBC and CNN for a few nights. Read the New York Times from Wednesday through next Sunday. The more they jump the shark, the better Romney's chances will be.