Barack Obama says, correctly, that this election offers the American public a stark choice with respect to policy and national direction. So far, the two political conventions also present clear differences in approach.
The Republican Convention was, in some ways, an understated affair. The Party devoted huge amounts of time attempting to show how nice Republicans are, especially when it comes to woman and Hispanics. This time could have been used to talk more about policy and Obama’s deplorable record. Instead, they opted for much happy talk directed, presumably, at moderates/independents/swing voters.
Last night, the Democrats took a very different approach. They assumed they are nice. Having relieved themselves of this burden of proof, the speakers (other than Michelle Obama) devoted their efforts to traditional convention fare, like ripping the opposing party and defending their policy positions. The target was the base primarily, but moderates/independents/swing voters might also be won over if they are persuaded that Mitt Romney is evil and that Obamacare isn’t so awful after all.
I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I prefer the Democrats’ approach in principle, and I gag a bit when I see my party defending, in effect, its humanity. But conventions are about winning, not principle. Obama effectively used the summer months to assassinate Mitt Romney’s character. Presumably, polling and focus group data persuaded Team Romney that it needed to use the Convention to undo the damage.
As for the Democrats, there is, as I have noted, a tension between firing up the base and remaining viable with moderates. Last night, the Democrats assumed they were skillful enough to make these two objectives seem to converge. It’s something of a high wire act.