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Filler: Barack Obama's speech 'schooled' Mitt Romney's

President Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention

President Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 6, 2012) Credit: AP

11:15 p.m. - As the DNC ends, and the entire convention season draws to a close, what have we seen?

Honestly, and opinionatedly, the Republicans had a fairly good convention. The Democrats had a very good one. Part of the difference was the energy levels, but part goes deeper than that.

By cutting taxes and raising spending as much as he did, President George W. Bush did extraordinary damage to the Republican brand. That damage can be healed, but it hasn't been yet. When I hear Romney and Ryan say they want to cut taxes and spending, I find it hard to believe, because I understand the federal budget well enough to know all the money is in entitlements and defense, which the Republicans say they won't cut. Discretionary spending just won't do it, and more tax cuts, without spending cuts, and with the defense spending increases Romney has promised, would be a disaster.

Beyond that, the conventions themselves: Michelle Obama is a better speaker than Ann Romney. Clinton did a better job than the Republican ex-presidents, because they weren't allowed near Tampa. Biden probably tied Ryan. Biden is more sincere, but kind of old hat, while Ryan is the fresh new thing.

Obama speech vs. Romney speech. Obama schooled him. He just did, both because he's a better speaker, and because he has more facts on his side. And again, Romney can blame Bush for that.

What Obama has not explained is how he will convince Congress to follow. What Romney has not explained is where he wants to go.

They've got eight weeks to do so.

But at the moment, Obama is walking out of Charlotte well ahead on points.  

11:04 p.m. - He's putting the responsibility on the voters: If he loses, it's because they've given up on hope and change.

I get the point, but I think that's a little weak. "Only you have the power to move us forward." Whoa, buddy. We elected you. You move us forward. You're the president, have been for four years.

And a shout out to Lincoln, and prayer. I like that.

"I'm hopeful because of you." The Students, auto workers and people he has met have given him hope. Soldiers, parents, children, etc. They all give him hope.

Okay, but you need to give them leadership in return. The great failure of Obama thus far has been a lack of emotional leadership, fire and conviction in the way he talks to the nation and lawmakers. It's not enough to whip it out at conevntions, which he does brilliantly.

He needs to do it all the time, if he wants to get this country going again.

He is clearly where he wants to be in the speech. If it were a sermon, it would be time for the call to the altar, and with that he is out, to the expected, tumultuous, accolades. Michelle is crying, Springsteen is playing. And the family is out on stage. 

10:56 p.m. - "The election four years ago wasn't about me, it was about you."

Can I have a ride on Air Force One, then? Also, if that election were about me, the ads would have been a lot uglier.

10:55 p.m. - Onward, to the deficit.

Obama says his plan would cut billions off of it. I mean trillions. Yeah, let me say something bold here. His play if he gets re-elected is to let all the Bush tax cuts expire, blame it on the Republicans because they won't separate them and increase just for the rich, pick up the extra $400 billion per year and use that money, along with defense cuts post war, to almost balance the budget. That's the play, the rest is fantasy.

Oh, it's "The Choice." Hush and listen.

Oh, that "borrow money from your parents" line will haunt Romney forever.

We believe in personal accomplishment, but also citizenship. I can't remember the last time I heard that term. Good choice.

Obama waxing rhapsodic on the interconnectedness of all things.

"We don't think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don't think government is the source of all of our troubles."

That's it, right there. The Republicans currently do believe that, and some days I do too. Pick one and vote.

10:47 p.m. - Military now, Iraq, the Taliban, Al Quaeda and bin Laden, as well as Afghanistan. We should pull out of Afghanistan tonight. Now that would be a campaign speech. "Your sons will be home when you wake up, and you're welcome."

The extended pull-out is entirely pointless.

Fomenting change in Iran? Okay, but let's be careful. Which Romney and Ryan don't want to be, so I'll give Obama that one on points.

And the Republicans calling Russia our #1 enemy last week was bizarre, since you hate to make an enemy based on an off-the cuff remark, particularly if that enemy is a huge nuclear nation. It's a little better if it's an annoying co-worker who drinks all the coffee and never makes another pot.

10:42 p.m. - Obama is describing paths, options that we have based on how we vote and who wins.

He's arguing manufacturing is coming back and oil imports are down. Hmm. How much of that is demand related.

On to oil subsidies, $4 billion per year that is about as stupid as any government program, but Obama will end it? If he coulda, he woulda by now.

Global warming now, and he says in this election you can do something about it. Again, if he coulda, he woulda.

Education now, and safer ground. It's the one place you can get bi-partisan work done in Washington, by invoking the "It's for the children" shibboleth.

And education is a great campaign speech topic. Everyone is for it, no one is against it.

Obama is getting his cadence going now, channeling a bit of Jim Clyburn from earlier this evening.

10:37 p.m. - "We are not going back (to Bush-era policies), we are moving forward, America."

Now it is a speech of shared sacrifice and patience which is, oddly, the same speech Chris Christie gave in Tampa. What does that mean, I wonder.

Obama is great at saying what he wants to do, but I'm not sure how he'll do it. Congress has him stymied. If he can't get some support, he may never pass another law even if he gets four more years to try.

10:32 p.m. - "Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call me in the morning."


10:32 p.m. - Pretty soon the crowd might quiet down enough to let him speak. Chants of "Four more years."

And he starts with the shout out to the wife, the kids, the Biden, then accepts the nomination. I'm wondering if he can outshine Clinton.

He begins on the theme of hope. He is starting with a very light hand, a lot of laugh lines.

Playing this as the biggest election since blah blah blah, something I don't really think is true.

Then on to his grandparents, the middle class, the greatest generation, etc.

There is this phrase they have, "everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share," but does that include people who get government aid, or just rich folks who need to pay more taxes? The Republicans have a meaningful point here Democrats ignore.

10:24 p.m. - And Michelle is back on stage to introduce Barack, a good move as she is basically America's sweetheart this week.

They hug, kiss, she encourages him, and is off.

10:23 p.m. - It's another automobile industry video. Segueing into health care. It may be an all-things Obama video.

Bin Laden. The Situation Room videos are intense.

The economic recovery. Video of Obama meeting people, and end of video.

10:16 p.m. - George Clooney voicing the video, does that mean he'll be popping up on stage? Will he have a chair? A Barcalounger? A love seat? A futon?

10:16 p.m. - VIDEO!!!!

10:15 p.m. - Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois now up to bat. He apparently introduced Obama at Barack's first convention speech, in 2004, and again at the DNC in 2008. Interesting.

Durbin has always looked like a high-school principal to me.

Again, Durbin is doing a good job laying out the differences between Obama and Romney, but at the end of the last night it's become a bit repetitive.

We get it. They're different. Obama is made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Romney is made of snails and puppy dig tails. Bring the president on and let's finish this thing and go home.

Sorry, two weeks on the road talking.

10:08 p.m. - Biden has constructed this speech well. He's hitting the high notes, the emotional points, at just the right times.

He's assailing the Republican concept of "a culture of dependency," but he's simplifying too much. Sure, most people who get help from the government just want a chance, but a lot of them just want a check. Pretending that's not true is stupid.

"America is not in decline," Biden says, and paints Romney/Ryan as betting against the American people, puts them in the same category as our foreign enemies by doing that as a callback to an earlier iteration. Kind of a nasty trick, actually.

The audience are holding signs tonight; many of them, say "Fired Up," and in fact, this crowd is. The whole city is (I know because I've had to scuttle all night in search of workable wi-fi, as I did last night. Way to go Charlotte). It's a very weird vibe.

He's getting choked up talking about our fallen soldiers, and it seems sincere. And now he's on to the honor of serving as vice president.

"We are on our way," is his rallying cry as he whips the crowd into a frenzy, and ends his speech.

9:58 p.m. - "Courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and a spine of steel," Biden says of Obama. He's yelling now. "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."

It is a pretty good line, even after the first time.

Now he's getting funny, picking on Romney/Ryan for not saying what cuts they have the courage to make, or explaining their Medicare plan.

Cue another attempt to popularize the term "Vouchercare." I don't know that it's going to catch on.

Says it can be reduced to a single notion. Romney and Ryan have different values and plans.

Romney is going to take a jobs tour: "With his support for outsourcing, it's going to have to be a foreign trip."

9:52 p.m. - He is a warm, sincere guy, particularly when he talks about the meaning of a job, or security, or letting down your kids.

That has always been his talent, to actually understand and relate to people. Two crises he wants to focus on, as related to Mitt and Barack:

1) The rescue of the automobile industry.  GM and Chrysler were on the verge of liquidation when they took office and Biden paints a picture in which no one but Obama thought the bailout was worth the risk.

Now talking about Romney, whose dad ran a car company, and how could he have supported letting the industry go down?

He's talking about the message it would have sent to the nation and to the world if the comapnies were allowed to go under. "Conviction. Resolve. Barack Obama." is the quote.

2) Killing bin Laden: Obama was committed to it and it sent a message to other nations about messing with the United States, Biden says. He says Obama has total belief in our soldiers. The admiral told Obama they could get the job done. "He said 'Do it.' and justice was done."

Biden says Romney said it was not worth moving Heaven and Earth and spending billions just to kill one person. I think Obama is right about this, and Romney wrong. It is corrosive to let people abuse you, as a person or a nation. It becomes a habit, for them and you.

9:37 p.m. - This crowd would cheer for cold soup at this point, and Joe Biden is no cold soup. He's not lobster either, but still.

The shout out to the wives has become a must, and it's a nice must. He does seem to genuinely love her. Aww.

He accepts nomination. Wouldn't it be awesome someday of someone didn't. Now that's blog fodder.

Points out that this generation is as worthy of respect as any before them, and I think it's a good point. Our military is 100 percent volunteer now. In World War II 10 million of the American men who served were drafted, and only 6 million enlisted. This generation, particularly of soldiers, deserves more respect.

And Biden wants to tell us about his good friend Barack.

It's the story of the recession, the economy collapsing, the slide and how Obama responded.

Which Obama didn't do perfectly, but he may well have done better than his opponent back then, John McCain, would have, or his opponent now, Mitt Romney, might have.

Has anyone ever asked Mitt Romney exactly what he would have done?

9:29 p.m. - And now Biden himself is on stage.

9:28 p.m. - And it's video time. VIDEO!!! It's about Biden, and he's doing the voiceover. Then it's about America. Then Biden again.

And what it means to be middle class. And the values. Which, it's worth pointing out, are not limited to the middle class.

Biden does have the best rapport with blue collar white voters, along with, perhaps, Hilary.

It's certainly not a strength of Obama's, not just because he's black, I think, but because he's so academic and professorial. It's a matter of relating.

They used a shot of him at a grave in the video as they talk about him relating to suffering and pain -- it's kind of ickily manipulative.

9:20 p.m. - Biden refers to herself as a full-time teacher and military mom. Their son, Beau, was in Iraq four years ago, and she says the war is over thanks to her husband and Obama.

And now she is paying tribute to Joe, who sometimes does get an unfairly bad rap. I've always kind of had a soft spot for the guy. He's like a normal guy, always getting in trouble, but well-intentioned and actually pretty smart.

When I read that back it sounds like I'm describing a sitcom.

And of course, just as I write that, she describes the accident that killed Biden's first wife, and now I feel terrible.

9:14 p.m. - Now on, Angie Flores, a student at Miami-Dade College. She's glowing with youth, vigor, and of course, a story of tough times growing up.

She apparently is on because she has a relationship with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the VP, who is now coming on.

9:09 p.m. - Tons of veterans on stage now, led by a retired admiral, who's reading off a litany of things Obama has done to help our soldiers, sailors and marines, active and former.

It is not being received with too much enthusiasm, until he starts naming states where the veterans come from. That gets mini-cheers from each delegation. But this in not a crowd that's too hyped on the military, and it's been noticeable on several occasions.

9:03 p.m. - And a video, about the military and veterans. It's concentrating on the day bin Laden was killed, from a whole bunch of different sources who were involved.

And now a plea to hire veterans, actually more of an argument for it than a plea.

And veterans talking about how Obama has improved services to veterans, wounded and otherwise.

8:55 p.m. - You immediately remember why he wasn't elected president. Stiff, without any discernible rhythm, he's always been a smart guy with plenty to say, but its hard to pay attention to.

He's aging well, though. He looks good.

He is good on foreign policy, always has been. He's nearly always been right, too. He just has never been able to get any one to listen to him until after the fact. It's helping him warm up a bit, find a cadence.

Vietnam, Iraq, he was right on both, and booed on both, at first.

He's arguing that Obama can be trusted on foreign policy, and has delivered, while Romney knows nothing about it and will rely on the advice of his neo-con war hawks.

"Ask Osama bin Laden if he's better of now than he was four years ago?" is a pretty good line.

Calling Romney a flipflopper on the wars.

Making a nice plea to care for our soldiers, saying Obama will do so.

8:42 p.m. - A friend just texted me to ask, about Crist, "Is that George Hamilton up there?" Not quite, but not far off either.

Crist exits, having done the job of reiterating the talking points about Obama and Romeny, and we go to a video about Geraldine Ferraro. Which is nice.

I always liked her, and her death almost two years ago was a sad passing. She had a great story, fascinating life, and took no crap.

That short video is followed by Sen. John Kerry, now up at the podium.

Kerry, 68, is a United States senator representing Massachusetts. He was the Democratic nominee for President in 2004, losing a close race to President George W. Bush. Kerry is known both for his heroism as a soldier in Vietnam and for his repudiation of that war once he had returned.

He has served in the Senate since 1985. Kerry’s presidential run was based largely on his opposition to the war in Iraq, as well as opposition the Bush’s tax policies. He is wealthy in his own right, and is married to Theresa Heinz, former wife of the now-deceased Sen. John Heinz, who is also wealthy, thanks to her first husband’s family fortune.

8:37 p.m. - Now on, Florida's Charlie Crist.

He's a party swapper, having traded in his Republican hat for a Democratic one. So everything he says gets taken with a grain of salt.

8:34 p.m. - Longoria is pretty good, and was well received. Nothing special, more of the same.

Now Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana takes the stage. He's here to hammer Romney. Spent a week in a war zone with Romney, on a governors' tour.

Says Mitt's a good man, good family man, loyal American. "But....."
"He brought the wrong agenda to Massachusetts, and he's the wrong man to be president of the United States."

He's going to start a call and response to "that dog don't hunt," in response to Romney's Massachusetts record.

Romney created deficits, raised taxes (calling them fees), Schweitzer says. Romney also Quadrupled the fee for a gun license.

He is making the Romney record sound horrible, but in the heat of the blogging battle, it's hard to tell exactly how entirely 100 percent true it is.

Says we need Clinton arithmetic. Selling the idea of Democrats as fiscal conservatives. And selling Obama as an example of that.

Schweitzer has a nice, loose style. H'es just very comfortable, and excited. It seems like tonight even the early speakers may be ones believed to have pizzazz.

All four of his grandparents were immigrants. Shocker.

8:22 p.m. - It's a story of humble beginnings, surprise, surprise.

I'm ready for someone to stand up there and say (maybe Caroline Kennedy should have done it), "My family was rich. Sick rich. But we're still good people, with good values, hard workers and charitable, like so many wealthy people are."

8:19 p.m. - She's a hoot. Has the crowd roaring naming how many jobs the auto bailout saved in each state.
A star is born.

Crowd chanting "USA, USA" so loud she cannot speak.

"When Romney said 'let Detroit go bankrupt' who took the wheel. Barack Obama."

Holy cow. That was absolutely awesome, and utterly out of the blue.

Now Eva Longoria, with a tough act to follow.

Eva Longoria, 37, is an actress best known for her work on “Desperate Housewives.” She used to be married to basketball star Tony Parker, but the two were divorced after she found hundreds of text messages on his phone from another woman, the wife of a teammate of Parker’s. She has been an active philanthropist, but has not been in the political spotlight before now.

8:16 p.m. - Granholm is actually doing a great job with this. She's poking fun at Romney, saucily.

Great line, "In Romney's world, the cars get the elevator and the workers get the shaft."

Instant tweet-fodder, referring to one of his homes, which has a car elevator.

8:13 p.m. - He's trying to create a new buzzword, "Couponcare" for a Medicare plan that would include vouchers. It's met with dead silence. He says it again. "Couponcare." It's met with dead silence.
And so it goes.

Now up, Jennifer Granholm.

She is the former governor and attorney general of Michigan. Born in Canada, she now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley. She is a graduate of that school, as well as Harvard Law. She became a United States citizen in 1980.

8:10 p.m. - This enormous, excited crowd seems to have gone a bit quiet over the past few minutes. They may be realizing they have 150 minutes of policy wonking before Obama comes out.

The funny thing about having a three-day convention with 100 speakers many things really need to be said. Maybe 10? Maybe 20?

So the repetition is constant, and only great speakers or beloved ones rise above it. Xavier is fine. What he's saying is fine. It's just...policy exhaustion.

8:07 p.m. - Now up, Xavier Becerra.

Becerra, 54, has served California in the House of Representatives since 2003.

A child of immigrants, he attended Stanford for both his undergraduate and law degrees. The Republicans featured a ton of immigrant/Hispanic success stories in their party last week, and the Democrats will do the same in Charlotte. It’s a real battle, because based on the demographic changes the nation is experiencing, the party that garners the Hispanic vote will be the party of the future.

8:04 p.m. - Kennedy is a sleepy speaker with a dull delivery. She won't remind anyone of John or Teddy.

What she's saying is fine, but the delivery is just brutal. She's like a female Ben Stein.

8:01 p.m. - Now on, Caroline Kennedy.

7:59 p.m. - Now Gabby Giffords, the victim of the shooting in Arizona, to lead the pledge, to tumultuous applause.

Giffords, looks pretty good, has a bit of a hard time maneuvering, but the crowd loves her.

She did great. Standing ovation. She still has a long way to go, but she's come quite far.

7:56 p.m. - Now there's a very odd screen up, a map of the United States that shows people committing to Obama, by first name and last initial, and where they are. Deeply strange, reminiscent of the Twitter feed.instrumental breaks at the RNC.

And it feels like it's been going on for about 15 minutes, though it's only been two.

7:51 p.m. - She has no empty chair, nor does she need one.

She's telling the story of growing up lower-middle class in New York City and making an impassioned plea toward young people to get them to vote.

She's talking about going in the voting booth with her mother as a small child. Funny, my 11-year-old always has loved election day and the voting process, and the "I voted" sticker, too.

7:48 p.m. - Scarlett Johansson enters, looking great and to big applause.

Johansson, 27, is an actress and model. She grew up in New York City and began acting professionally at the age of 10. She is considered one of the sexiest women alive, by magazines and fans (as well as by me) and is active politically. She campaigned for Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004.   

7:42 p.m. - Clyburn has that old-timey southern rhythm in his speech, it's a great ingredient in a good speech.

He's invoking the Democratic deities: Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Clinton, and stressing how hard Republicans have always fought against social programs.

He's right, of course, but as these programs start to go broke, that opposition may take on a different flavor. I'm just sayimg.

And now Clyburn is trying to make the argument that Obama belongs in that company. 

7:38 p.m. - And now Rep. James Clyburn, my at one time my congressman, is speaking.

Clyburn, 72, is member of Congress from South Carolina (my home state) who served as House Majority Whip until the Democrats lost the House in 2010. He is now the third-ranking Democrat in the House, and has held his seat since 1993.

He is one of the most successful black politicians in the nation, reliably liberal, and known for his awesome annual fish-fry fundraisers. He is also now the lone Democrat representing South Carolina in the House since John Spratt’s retirement in 2010.

7:36 p.m. - And what better way to entertain folks as they break down the musical instruments than with a video.

This one about economic security, retirement, stability, the middle class.

The thing is, no one's truly against the middle class. The Republicans do have a very different sense of how to empower people and create opportunity. But there has been a sense at this convention of painting conservatives as evil on this issue, and I don't think that's quite fair.

7:29 p.m. - The FooFighters are no Mary J. Blige, but they're doing all right.

The order in which things are going tonight is somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, at least partly because the venue was changed from the stadium to Time Warner Arena. Or maybe I'm just stupid.

But we'll get it straight.

Every one is doing multiple songs tonight, something we haven't seen on previous evenings, at either convention. The FooFighters are swinging into song 2, to not a tremendous amount of excitement.

7:24 p.m. - These videos are effective, often more so than speakers, at making specific points. For one thing, I think we've become better at paying attention to screens that humans.

And these are produced to perfection, as were the ones at the RNC in Tampa.

The one currently playing is basically a roundup of the challenges Obama faced and how he gloriously triumphed over them.

No mention in it of Biden, but then what would they say? "He hasn''t actually injured anyone or started a war. Three cheers for Joe Biden."

And after the video, The FooFighters.

Someday there will be a political speech.

7:16 p.m. - Will he be the gaffemaster or Mr. Smooth? But first, as always at the DNC, a video.

7:15 p.m. - And now Vice President Joe Biden is on to make his acceptance speech.

Biden, 69, born in Scranton, Pa., served Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before being elected to his current position. He is known for his expertise in foreign affairs and the inner workings of Washington, as well as his gaffes.

Biden sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1988 and 2008, falling well short both times. He was also accused, during the 1988 race, of plagiarizing a speech by a British politician. Probably his most famous misguided statement was on the topic of his current boss, President Barack Obama, during the 2008 primaries: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean that’s a storybook, man.”

7:12 p.m. - It's the final night of convention season 2012 and nothing about it feels like any night that's come before. The arena was full by 6 p.m., an hour before the news networks pick up the program, and four hours before the main speakers of the night appear and the network coverage kicks off.

By 6:15 Mary J. Blige had the entire arena rocking with her version of U2's "One."

Even outside the arena, the streets are nearly impassable. They, and the bars are packed with tens of thousands of people, absolutely jammed. There is an excitement in the air that is palpable.

Obviously, the big thing tonight is the speech of President Barack Obama, but other stars will shine, or flame out, as well.

Last night, Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, each in their own way, did great jobs.

Now, the official nomination of Vice President Joe Biden is are beginning, with his son, Beau, doing the honors.