Welcome to Nightcap, where National Journal’s correspondents take you inside today’s convention—and what’s happening after hours.
Recovery Is a Process, Not a Speech
With a poet’s pacing, President Obama assured anxious Americans that “our problems can be solved” with his gauzy agenda for more jobs, lower deficits, and leadership they can trust.
It was a great speech—and yet, it fell short.
Obama still has work to do with the vision thing. Convincing voters that he has a credible, practical plan to turn the nation around is a process, not a speech. Voters already knew that Obama could deliver a stem-winder. His rhetorical skills were never in question.
In fact, his lyrical promises of hope and change and a post-partisan, post-racial nation in 2008 raised expectations so high that Obama was destined to fall short. Especially after the economy collapsed before he took office, forcing him to expend political capital on a salvage effort.
And so now voters can be expected to wonder whether the promises he made on Thursday night will be—or even can be—achieved.
Biden's Strong Middle-Class Authority
There are reasons not to let Vice President Joe Biden appear before large crowds. He says "literally" when that's really nonsensical and he means "figuratively." He treats teleprompters the way risk-pool drivers treat stop signs.
But Biden speaks to the middle class with greater authority and familiarity than any figure on a national ticket since Bill Clinton and, before him, Ronald Reagan.
The auto-industry bailout, Biden said tonight, wasn't about "balance sheets and writeoffs," the way he said Mitt Romney viewed it. It was, he said, about the auto workers and "about the America those people built."
Biden, who has considerable purchase in the 2016 conversation, is an irreversibly flawed politician. But it is, as he showed tonight, polish that he lacks and not enthusiasm, smoothness and not a fumbling honesty.
In that sense, he is the logical—perhaps the only logical—counterbalance to his running mate.
On Obama's Stage, Kerry Gets His Revenge
The man who could be the next secretary of State, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, finally buried the biggest gaffe of his 2004 run for the White House—and turned it against GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the process.
Kerry wobbled in 2004 when he famously said that "I actually did vote for [it] before I voted against it" when discussing Iraq and Afghanistan war funding. For that cycle, it was the flip-flop heard around the world.
On Thursday, Kerry flung it straight at Romney's forehead. Democratic delegates heard a resounding slap. Kerry ticked off a list of apparently conflicting Romney positions on intervention in Libya, withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and a timeline for bringing U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.
"Talk about being for it before you were against it," Kerry said. "Mr. Romney, here's a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself!"
Kerry also brought the "are you better off" debate into the foreign-policy arena, with another stinging line. "Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago,” Kerry said.
A Tale of Two Conventions
There are always two takeaways from a political convention: the view from the hall and the view from the living room. The hall contains the party faithful; the living room houses the undecided. And programming is arranged accordingly.
In an election that is supposed to hinge on the economy, the Democratic convention featured a constant barrage of speakers decrying Mitt Romney's stances on abortion and birth control. At times, it felt more like a Planned Parenthood gala than a nominating convention.
That was before prime time, however. While the speakers carried on network television sprinkled their speeches with social issues, their themes tended to be broader, more mainstream, more kitchen-table.
Sandra Fluke, who delivered a preachy "war on women" tirade, spoke just minutes before the networks picked up live coverage. She—and many others like her, who delivered passionate if partisan speeches—were just not ready for prime time.
WHERE’S THE PARTY?
Rub elbows with Democratic donors and dance to live performances by Pitbull and the Scissor Sisters at this private party, starting at 10:30 p.m., soon after President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination. Hosted by Priorities USA Action, Majority PAC, and House Majority PAC, the party will take place at the North Carolina Music Factory's The Fillmore, at 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.
One Last VIP Party
StartUp RockOn winds down the convention with its last VIP after hours party of the week. By invitation. Starts at 11:30 p.m. at the Elder Gallery, 1520 S. Tryon St.
MORE EVENTS TONIGHT:
- Carolina Speakeasy Fundraiser. 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. By invitation.
- Uptown Magazine’s Up-and-Coming Leaders. 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Blue Restaurant, 206 N. College St. By invitation.
- Let’s Stay Together Party. 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Sweet Home ALObama, 219 S. Brevard St. Tickets here.
Where's The Party? was compiled by National Journal's Nancy Cook and Lara Seligman.