WHAT WORKED LAST NIGHT
I think the Michelle Obama speech worked. I think the video chat after the speech really worked. The sense of family connection was unfakeable. I think a lot of Americans saw that and said not "Oh, those are brown snooty radicals from Elitist Weirdistan," but rather "Oh, that's us." Also unfakeable were Michelle's good-heartedness and nervousness. Americans saw that she's not angry, i.e., angry all the time, contrary to what a billion spam e-mails (and other below-the-radar bits of gutter trash, like this racist crap from PUMAs) have told a lot of the country. They needed to see she isn't, and they really saw it last night.
I'm thinking back to Peggy Noonan, just after the '04 election:
I think Mr. Bush, the better man in terms of character, was also the more normal man. And we like normal. He loves sports and business and politics, and speaks their language. Normal. His wife is important to him, and his kids seem a bit of a mystery to him, and perhaps even to some degree intimidating. Normal.
Noonan goes off on a right-wing tangent after that, but I'll stop her there. Isn't that exactly what we saw on that video conversation after the speech? Shouldn't Noonan now abandon her party and embrace the utter normality of the Obamas?
I'm joking, of course. But I'm convinced that a lot of ordinary Americans were disarmed. Remember, they liked the Gores after the '00 convention -- even the kiss worked, and that looked more stagey than this did.
Yeah, I know: James Carville and CNN's Jeff Toobin and David Gergen think there's been as surprising dearth of anti-GOP, anti-McCain red meat. Sure, I'd like more. But if there's plenty of red meat from now through Thursday, the lack of attacks last night won't matter.
That red meat has to come. The Clintons have to deliver it, along with Obama and Biden and Gore. But setting the table with a positive, myth-busting night was not a bad idea. I think last night played a hell of a lot better in America than it did with the pros.
I do think the Obama campaign could be a bit better at meeting the new very high standards for speed and variety of attack ads. Getting out attack ads that really seem to sting and getting them out in bulk and as quickly as possible is what you have to do this year to impress the press -- it's the new fun-to-have-a-beer-with. (The press wants to be given material by the campaigns just the way it wants to be given food and friendship.)
Note how impressed Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times is:
In a modern production studio about a mile from where the Democrats were opening their convention here Monday, a SWAT team of Republican operatives dispatched to crash Senator Barack Obama's party was reveling in its accomplishments.
Two new advertisements devised to stoke the sore feelings of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's devotees were widely covered online and on cable news channels; a news conference the Republicans produced with former Clinton supporters who said they were now backing Senator John McCain drew a standing-room-only crowd of reporters; and a "Happy Hour for Hillary' cocktail party was planned, to be followed by an appearance by Mr. McCain on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." ...
The Republicans' ability to get a message through at the convention has surprised campaign veterans....
If I were running the Obama campaign, just to impress the Jim Rutenbergs, I might have rushed out an ad featuring Senator Clinton's "I'm Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message" remark. Yes, I know she's speaking tonight, and yes, I know I just said above that it was good for the campaign to spend one night just being positive. But this ad didn't have to be in heavy rotation, or even on the air at all. Just cranking it out and getting it online would be a way of telling Rutenberg et al. that the fight was being taken right back to McCain. Really, the Obamaites can't let themselves lose a 21st-century media war to a guy who can't even get on the damn Internet without assistance.
ALSO: TV is our main means of communication in this country; Americans believe what they see repeatedly on TV. Assuming she cooperates, there have to be Hillary Clinton TV ads for Obama, and they have to be on TV a lot. I say the sooner the better -- starting just after her speech would be ideal. Bill, too. It's the only way the Obama campaign can really hope to counter the media-fueled drumbeat of PUMA resentment.