Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Convention Speeches

Josh Kraushaar says:
Tapping Elizabeth Warren to give a Wed primetime address before B Clinton is one heckuva gamble for the Obama campaign. His biggest mistake recently was emulating the rhetoric Warren used to great acclaim ("you didn't build it on your own"), which prompted the president to cut an ad "explaining" his comments. Warren 's rhetoric is a hit with liberals, but not convinced it has mainstream appeal. The risk: It could be the Dem/lib equivalent of Pat Buchanan culture war speech in 92, if it's too hard-edged.
Okay, I hope I only have to say this once.

This is not only not your father's national convention, this isn't even your slightly older sister's national convention.

The broadcast networks are going to take, what, three speeches? The two from the ticket, and I suppose the one labeled "keynote." Beyond that...maybe bits of a couple more. I suppose it's possible that they'll take one or two more speeches live...probably not.

Even for what they do broadcast, you're not getting the captive audience that you once had, given the way that TV has changed.

But for the rest, primetime or not, over on the cable nets, you're getting the hard partisans and a handful of political junkies, and that's it. And mostly, that means the committed supporters; the other party's supporters don't watch second-tier speeches, for the most part.

And so there's virtually no "risk" in giving Elizabeth Warren or anyone else a prime time speaking spot, because no one except committed Democrats are going to be watching. Oh, sure, the opposition research team over at the Romney campaign will be watching -- but if anyone says anything damaging, it won't matter when it was originally said, at all.

I should point out, too, that we're not going to get any Pat Buchanan type speeches in 2012, because there's virtually no one in either party who has earned the right to give a speech that won't be pre-screened by the campaigns (the only possible exception I can think of would be Ron Paul).

So: there's a bit of importance within the party about who gets high-profile speeches. But not only will the speeches have no effect on the November vote, which was almost certainly true back in the days of full network coverage, but in almost every case no one is even going to know about other "prime time" speeches.


  1. Moreover, the problem with "You didn't build that" (to the extent that there is one- how many votes do you really think it's going to move, JB?) was not the message itself, but Obama's inartful, almost heckling delivery of it. Warren's original speech was not delivered that way, and the context of a prime time convention address does not lend itself to such a tone.

    1. I'll be bipartisan and say that "You didn't build that" is the partisan inverse of "I like being able to fire people": A banal and standard partisan point that opponents siezed on because it fit a pre-existing narrative they were convinced was obvious to everyone else.

      (Didn't you link to a Dave Weigel piece along those lines, J.B.?)

  2. Also: I'm not convinced Elizabeth Warren is the savior of the Senate or anything, but c'mon, she has no chance of being the liberal Pat Buchanan! That would *maybe* be more of an Al Sharpton or Alan Grayson thing, if at all. (I'm just trying to think of bomb-throwers.) And "you didn't build that" is a non-issue even by the standards of such things.

  3. If it had been a scripted speech, Obama would have said "business didn't build that" instead of "if you have a business, you didn't build that." Then it would have been harder to cut it out and present the excerpt without the opening clause about infrastructure, and the issue never would have arisen.

  4. Yeah great point. I'd also point out that at the lots of other stuff happened at the GOP 92 convention that caused problems and created the perception that the GOP was out of the mainstream. Some moderate pro-choice speakers where booed off the stage, something that isn't going to happen in NC. The idea that Warren is some kind of fire breathing radical is silly, she is a boring career academic and policy wonk, not Alan Ginsberg.

    @JB I assume you saw Gelman's response to your response: http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/07/31/compared-to-national-popular-vote-the-electoral-college-favors-voters-in-small-states-on-average-not-large-states-its-because-of-those-extra-2-electoral-votes-that-each-state-gets/

    Nerd Fight Reloaded!

  5. I think a major speaking role by Warren will get a lot of press attention. She's already being talked about as a future presidential candidate and her current campaign may have the most national significance, second only to the Presidential race.

  6. I hate to break it to Josh Kraushaar, but Elizabeth Warren's economic message about the failure to regulate banks, the need to recognize the insidious side of greed, and the importance of using policy to level the playing field is wildly popular. What Pat Buchanan speech is he thinking of? Has she ever given a firey, race-baiting speech? If Warren's so unpopular, how does Kraushaar explain the efforts to pull her into that Senate race against a media-savvy, moderate incumbent? and the closeness of that race? That's just such a sloppy, lazy comparisson.

    Having Warren talk during primetime before Clinton is the biggest freaking no-brainer I can think of. They are two of the best communicators of a center-left economic platform. Warren for her recent work on financial regulation and her pleasant public personality and Bubba because of the roaring 1990s.

    Also, no one who doesn't already closely follow politics cares about these "gaffes." No one. They aren't news and nobody cares. People who don't follow politics (and many who do) think that stuff is petty and boring.

    Someone should tell Kraushaar that the republicans don't need him to spin campaign developments as good for republicans. They don't need sunshine blown in their faces. They need to make strategic decisions based on reality.

    1. While I don't disagree with the gist of your remarks--the closeness of Warren's race? It's a D+12 state! Admittedly, I have no idea how much Brown's incumbency is or "should be" helping him, and he is a very good politician, but let's remember the context.

  7. just because i always have to point it out, Buchanan didn't speak of a 'culture war', he spoke of a 'religious war'.

    1. It really could be both ways:

      "There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself."

      So, he starts with "religious war," but the very next sentence uses the "culture war" term as well. Prior to those sentences, the issues he brings up are mostly religious (or, at least, have politico-religious connotations): vouchers, gay marriage, abortion, school prayer, and porn. He also mentions women in combat, and I have a tough time seeing a direct religious connection there. (Though, truth be told, the porn connnection is weak as well...and this is what gets us into the "culture war" terminology instead of religious, because the term seems to fit better, at least to me).


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