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Friday, July 30, 2004
Bite-Size Toast for Thurday Night

By Steven Taylor @ 9:48 am

Bite-Size Toast: A Supplement to this week’s Toast-o-Meter


The week so far:

  • The Pre-DNC Toast-O-Meter.
  • Bite-Sized Toast for Monday/Tuesday.
  • Bite-Size Toast: Recapping Wednesday in Boston


    Assessment: This was a well-managed convention in terms of mechanics. However, I am unclear as to what idea, thought, or theme will resonate beyond the Fleet Center into the electorate. More specifically: what happened this week that will persuade the undecideds that Kerry should be the Commander-in-Chief during this time of international conflict.

    The early signs are that the Democrats will get a small bump in the polls: Zogby Poll Shows Democratic Ticket Up 5 Points. I will be most surprised if the bump is much more than 5 points or if it lasts long. Indeed, Kerry-Edwards ought to get some bump just from the fact that this past week has been All Kerry All the Time (as is fair).

    Still, despite the mechanical success of the convention, I don’t see this convention creating a substantially different view of Kerry amongst the undecideds than they had prior to the convention. If that assessment is correct, then the convention was a failure. Kerry was supposed to give the Speech of His Life last night, and I don’t think he did. It was an adequate speech, but it was hardly an awe-inspiring one. If voters didn’t know Kerry before the convention, what new thing do they know now? That he served in Viet Nam? Please: the technologically deprived denizens of the Amazon jungle know that by now.

    As such, I don’t see a lot of heat being generated by the convention itself, or the speech. It may jazz up those already predisposed to vote for Kerry, but they were jazzed up already just because they get to vote against Bush in November. As such, the convention did not really further Kerry’s goal of turning Bush into Texas Toast in any substantial way. I still think that the breaking point for this election season will be the debates.

  • My live-blogging of last night can be found here and here.

  • Here’s Dale Franks of QandO’s views of Kerry’s Night.
  • Stephen Green’s observations aren’t to be missed. (Start here and follow the trail).

    The Film

  • Roger L. Simon wasn’t impressed with the Kerry flick.

    The Speech

    Editorial Pages

  • The editorial page of WaPo, (in a piece entitled “Missed Opportunity"): “while he may have been politically effective, he fell short of demonstrating the kind of leadership the nation needs.
  • The NYT editorial was more positive than WaPo’s: “As an introduction to the candidates, the Democratic convention, on the whole, did its job.”
  • The LAT’s piece starts with sarcasm: “Over four days of the Democratic convention, we have come to suspect that John F. Kerry may have served in Vietnam.” From there it goes on to praise the Democrats for displaying faith and flag at the convention, as well as being organized. However, I maintain that if the goal was to appeal to truly religious voters, the chide about wearing religion on one’s sleeve and Kerry’s statement that he was saved in Viet Nam by the “grace of a Higher Being” ain’t gonna cut it. That may sound really religious to a non-religious audience, but it will sound hollow to a truly religious ear.

    The basic assessment by the LAT editorial writers is positive, calling last night’s event a “brilliantly crafted acceptance speech.”

  • USAT points out: “Trouble is, Kerry leaves Boston still not having formed in voters’ minds an image of where he’d take the nation on its most urgent issues: the war on terrorism and resolving the mess that is the U.S. situation in Iraq. So far, his policies sound a lot like those of President Bush.”
  • The Dallas Morning News: “All in all, it was an impressive performance and one that should serve Mr. Kerry well in his quest for the White House.”

    Mainstream Analysis/Columnists

    The analysis piece in WaPo, A Challenge to the GOP on Values, Security, aptly notes the following:

    There were notable omissions in Kerry’s speech, however, that raise questions about the course he and his party have chosen for the campaign. Like other speakers during the four nights of the convention, Kerry only briefly touched on Iraq, the issue that has shaped and dominated this presidential campaign, divided the Democratic Party and at times bedeviled his own candidacy. At a time when many Americans are looking for an exit strategy and may wonder whether Kerry has a plan for Iraq that is different from Bush’s, he offered only the assurance that he knows how to get it right.

    Nor did Kerry or running mate John Edwards use their speeches this week to confront their opponents directly or persuasively argue the case for turning out the administration. His advisers believe the public already is looking to replace Bush and needs only to find a level of comfort with Kerry to change presidents. They may be correct, but that too is a gamble, for there will be no better opportunity to make that case before the fall debates.

    And I think that this is a correct assessment:

    Still unanswered is how Kerry plans to keep all his promises for new programs and tax cuts and still meet his pledge to cut the soaring deficit in half in four years.

    While I know that for a large block of voters, change is the goal, but I still wonder as to the degree to which this “we can do better, but I won’t say how” theme will persuade the undecided.

  • Howard Kurtz: Kerry Wows the Media.
  • Thomas Oliphant, writing in BoGlo: Rushed speech, lost opportunity.
  • The LAT’s Ron Brownstein: “Sen. John F. Kerry capped a Democratic convention centered on his Vietnam experiences with an acceptance speech that seemed the political equivalent of a surprise attack on an enemy’s strongest point.” To which I say: HUH?! Did we watch the same speech?
  • Lawrence Kaplan at The New Republic Online
    And when he did get around to discussing the matter of our national survival, he basically took a page from the post-Vietnam playbook favored by an earlier generation of Democrats. “We shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad,” the candidate declared to rousing applause, “and shutting them down in the United States of America.” Suggesting that Europeans won’t send troops to Iraq simply because they can’t stand his opponent, Kerry promised to be nicer to our allies so we could “bring our troops home.” Unlike, say, in Bosnia, he pledged to go to war “only because we have to.” Leaving unsaid exactly by whom and at what cost, he dedicated himself to making America “respected in the world.” Finally, and without saying precisely what it is, Kerry said he knows “what we have to do in Iraq.” He has a plan, you see. Just like a candidate from long ago claimed to have a plan to end a war-the war that put Kerry on the stage last night and which, for him at least, wasn’t so long ago at all.

    Blogospheric Reaction

  • James Joyner (who also has a Blogospheric round-up): “"Like the John Edwards speech the previous evening, this was almost entirely strung together bits from his standard stump speech.”
  • Kevin Drum: “My take: not bad, but not a slam dunk killer either. Some of the notes it hit were pretty good, a few were oddly off key, and the second half had a bit of a laundry list quality to it. Overall, though, it was at the high end of workmanlike and did what it had to do.”
  • Glenn Reynolds: “A not-bad speech, badly delivered. It was short on substance, and long on cliches, but nomination acceptance speeches often are. It was too long, and his delivery was rushed. The sweating and bizarre gestures didn’t help. I don’t think it will swing the momentum in his favor, which is what he needed. It may turn some people off.”
  • Matthew Yglesias: “To put it politely, I thought that was crap.” More specifically:
    Mainly, I’m pissed about Iraq. How to handle Iraq is the most important question facing the president and he just punted. On other looming foreign policy issues (Iran, North Korea, Sudan) where, again, the president can pretty much do whatever he wants we are left with no idea of what a President Kerry would want to do. Nor do we even have a particularly smart backward-looking critique of the Iraq War.

  • Michelle Malkin opines that Teresa helped him write the speech.

  • Andrew Sullivan: “it was a B - performance, not as disastrous as Al Gore’s rant in 2000, but nowhere near the level of the best. I mean, even Dole was better eight years ago. Some of it was so pompous and self-congratulatory I almost gagged.”
  • Chad Edwards assesses the speech here.
  • Kevin Alyward’s thoughts are here.
  • Pieter Dorsman was prepared to be impressed. but doesn’t sound like he was.
  • Viking Pundit has a mini-round-up.
  • Bryan of Arguing with Signposts has his reaction from a media room at the convention itself.
  • Robert Tagorda reacts here, given special attention to Kerry’s economic policy proposals.

  • Filed under: 2004 Campaign
    • The Command Post - 2004 US Presidential Election linked with Convention Round-Up
    • The Moderate Voice linked with Did John Kerry's Speech Advance His Campaign?
    • CALIFORNIA YANKEE linked with Reaction To Kerry's Acceptance Speech

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