By Chris May
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It went by in a flash.
Not the convention. But Air Force One. The president’s plane lifted off from Charlotte just a few minutes after 10:00 Friday morning, and just hours after the confetti cannons exploded inside the convention hall. And as I watched the plane disappear into Carolina blue skies my thoughts turned to wondering about just where we are in this campaign.
If you’re a political junkie it feels as if the end is near. But I imagine for most people it seems as if it’s just beginning.
Where does it all stand after Charlotte? There’s no question that the Democratic Party activists who gathered in this remarkably well-manicured and well-mannered city are – to turn a phrase – fired up and ready to go for their guy. They LOVE his wife, the First Lady.
And they would all gladly campaign for Bill Clinton if not for that pesky constitution preventing him from running for a third term.
But the enthusiasm of the DNC (and it was quite the party) doesn’t matter nearly as much as how their message is received by voters throughout the country – especially in swing states like Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado.
Did the president make the kind of persuasive argument he needed to make to convince undecided voters that he can accomplish in a second term what has eluded him in his first? Namely turning around the nation’s unemployment problem and debt woes. Did he really lay out a vision? A plan to move forward?
I’ve been hearing a lot of criticism of his speech to the DNC, both in its immediate aftermath and now in the day-after coverage. Frankly, I found it to be surprising. It lacked the soaring rhetoric and big themes you expect from a convention speech. In its focus on policy goals and initiatives, it came across to me as more of a State of the Union speech. And the problem with that is SOTU speeches are typically instantly forgettable.
I do think the president faced a tougher challenge than did Mitt Romney. Romney needed only to introduce himself to the American people and come across as a man prepared and capable of being president.
President Obama, on the other hand, had to acknowledge the hard times that have accompanied his presidency while arguing thing will get better. Which would you rather do?
The bottom line in the aftermath of the conventions is that neither party has moved heaven and earth. There is a sliver of undecided voters in the country and hopefully they’ve heard or learned something over these past two weeks that will help them make an informed decision on Election Day. But I’m guessing they won’t break one way or the other until late in the game. They’ll watch the debates, they’ll be buried by TV ads, and then they’ll vote.
And by the time the votes are counted November 6th, I’m guessing we’ll all feel like it went by in a flash.