President Barack Obama on Wednesday looks to electrify his fourth national convention in 12 years — this time in the cause of helping Hillary Clinton hold the White House for his party.
The trick for Obama, if he can pull it off, will be transferring charisma to his long-ago rival and former secretary of state without saying her election would amount to his third term.
It’s a verbal threading of the needle.
Ironically, some of his opening words in 2008, after his first nomination, were: “America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.”
This was standard fare for an “out” party — and could have been spoken by one of the Republicans who took the stage last week at the opposing convention in Cleveland.
Obama will depict the past eight years as a period of hard-won accomplishments despite the GOP and invoke the need to continue progress — a “stay the course” type of message.
Convention halls are echo chambers, so he’ll get big cheers from those on hand. Outside the arena in Philadelphia, the Gallup poll showed him with a 50 percent approval rating nationwide. His predecessor, George W. Bush, was at 32 percent at this point eight years ago.
Much will be made of the first African-American president speaking up for Clinton, who hopes to be the first female president.
He’ll knock Donald Trump, of course. Obama, like his wife, Michelle, on Monday, is already in that fray. She told the receptive hall: “Don’t stoop to their level. Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”
Recently, the president portrayed Trump as a bad pitchman on the Home Shopping Network and faulted the Republicans for nominating him. Expect more of this.
Obama will undoubtedly put in a pitch for breaking the GOP hold on the Congress as well.
In 2004, he delivered the keynote convention speech while a Senate candidate in Illinois. It was on behalf of Bush’s challenger, Sen. John Kerry, who would later succeed Clinton as his secretary of state.
“John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us,” Obama said at the time.
“Kerry will be sworn in as president,” he wrongly predicted. “And John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president. And this country will reclaim its promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.”
Also appearing in Philadelphia on Wednesday will be Vice President Joe Biden. Like Clinton, he’s a former Democratic primary rival of Obama.
Combined with the unique role of former President Bill Clinton in all this, you’re seeing unity at the upper levels of the party.
Whether the cordiality of that network reaches down to the voters, though, is a different discussion.