By John Mark Reynolds
Chatting about expectations is a political junky’s game. Looking for a fix of actual news at the Convention, you will hear many things about the Democratic National Convention (DNC) most of which will turn out to be false in retrospect. For sane voters–most of whom will watch the Biden and Obama speeches and little else–the substance and the abiding visuals of the Convention are what will matter most.
There are five things to look for at the DNC (and just after) which will tell you whether the Convention was a success.
First, follow the Clinton money after the convention.
The idiotic spin that the Convention is about unity is setting a bar so low that the DNC cannot fail. The Clinton machine cannot afford to look like they killed Senator Obama. They will back him with loud words. This will be viewed as “success.” You could get rich if a friend would give you a dollar for every time a podium speaker says “this party is united.”
Bluntly, any large scale disunity visible to the viewer would so doom Obama that one must assume he will have it in check.
How do you know if real unity is achieved? Look for the small stories right after the DNC that talk about whether Clinton donors have opened up their wallets. If not, there is no real unity and the Clinton apparatus is trying to quietly knife Obama.
Second, look for the killer visual error that the old media loves immediately but which the new media turns clownish.
The best example is John Kerry coming to the podium with a salute. This looked good at the moment, but did not wear well with repeat viewings. Pols and their helpers still plan Convention tricks for the pre-video on demand era. They do things that look good once, but look silly on repeat viewings. It is the difference between the ability of the Old Star Trek to run in a stunt double for Kirk which they could assume that nobody would catch in one quick viewing (and nobody thought much about syndication then) versus the Whedonesque (Buffy, Angel) assumption that each episode would be viewed many, many times.
Think wedding videos. Hammy and “of the moment” ceremonies wear very badly (become camp!) on repeat viewing. Oddly, highly controlled traditional ceremonies wear well. Obama better find a Cranmer fast to control any desire to look “trendy” or do “cool” things at the Convention that end up looking (after a few weeks) like Mom’s “Princess Moonbeam” dress or Dad’s leisure suit in the old wedding pix.
Today you must run your Convention with the viral video in mind. No hammy salutes or chants that look good the first time but cloy on repeated viewings.
Third, count the references to the Clinton administration in non-Clinton speeches versus self-referential praise in Clinton speeches.
Many words of praise of Clinton governance (not just to the Clintons personally or to the “hard fought” primary campaign) in the “other guys” speeches means healing has happened on the Obama side. Will Obama praise the nineties? Ignoring the governance (as opposed to the personality of Clinton) will make Bill very mad and means there is still anger on the Obama side.
Many references to how Clinton governed in the Clinton speeches (where the Obama folk would like them eliminated) means healing has not happened on the Clinton side. President Clinton is his administration and Senator Clinton is his stand-in, so if the He and the She still feel the need to point out that they ruled well, then both are angry.
Their anger will kill Obama in places like Pennsylvania.
Fourth, wait for Biden to say something stupid.
If he doesn’t, Senator Obama is saved until the next time we notice Biden . . . which may not be until the Veep debates.
If he does, Senator Obama will look very bad for passing on Senator Clinton at just the wrong time.
Finally, the most important moment of the Convention, perhaps the only important moment, is the speech by Senator Obama.
Here we can assume that Obama will get the speech just right . . . but that the choice of venue is his big problem. He may not be able to solve it. The immediate visuals will be great and the television talking heads will praise them, but the totalitarian Olympic spectacle that just ended is a big problem for Senator Obama. He may not be able to win with the long term visual impact of his choice to speak in a stadium.
Republicans should pray for a loud and hyperactive audience of Obama acolytes who begin the weird “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma” cry early and often. McCain’s best coup of the campaign so far (other than the Biden pick) was to turn that chant into a cue to the American people of “celebrity worship.”
People forget political speeches. They will not forget seventy-odd thousand adoring leftists. The speech in the stadium made no sense when he first announced it, but now it is a McCain commercial waiting to happen. Success for Obama will be giving a speech to an intent stadium that is enthusiastic without being weird. Success is few if any camera shots of young adults for Obama with cult-like adoration. Success is getting out the stadium as quickly as possible.
By John Mark Reynolds