McCain Has a Prayer

August 27, 2008

My email box this morning has communicated to me that there has been a disturbance in the force. My praise of Hillary’s speech melted more than a few circuits and preconceptions around the world.

What will melt more circuits is that on another level the speech was even more profound than I had time and energy to share last night. Uncovering its depth will help me explain the challenge facing Biden tonight, Obama tomorrow, and the party coming out of Denver.

On its face it was the definitive endorsement speech of Obama. She said all the right things in all the right ways. As she was giving it I was brought back to the best moments of women’s gymnastics at the Olympics. She nailed every line the way every gold medal Olympic gymnast nailed their landing. She was completely and totally at the top of her game, it was a gold medal performance.

Yet politically it was brilliantly shrewd. She didn’t do the one thing the Obama campaign desperately wanted her to do. Concede and call off the floor vote tonight. The Obama camp desperately wants to get a unanimous vote today so as to give the impression that the party is coming out of Denver united. The fact that it won’t be united is not the point. The purpose of this convention (and I expect next week’s as well) is to sell a candidate and a message.

One aspect of the brilliance of the speech was that she did everything she needed to do for Obama, but not the one thing Obama wanted her to do.

Another aspect of the speech’s political genius is that she set her agenda for the party. It was not, “Change we Can Believe In.” It was Hillary’s agenda for the party. If you read her speech you will see that in the middle she explained for several minutes precisely what HER campaign was about and then she said it is for these reasons that she supports Barack Obama. If Michelle Obama defined her husband as an American on Monday, Hillary Clinton defined the mission of the Democratic Party last night. In essence she said, “I support Obama because he will do what I set out to do.”

Insofar as one aspect of excellence in Politics is shrewdness, last night was a perfect 10 in that category as well. That is why I walked out of the Pepsi Center feeling as if I had seen a master performance, because I have not witness anything in this campaign so politically shrewd and brilliant.

And this brings us to McCain’s prayer and the challenge facing Biden, Obama, and the party.

If last night had been Hillary’s acceptance of the Vice-Presidential nomination, I believe it would have ensured Obama’s election.

But it wasn’t. When the good feelings of the speech wear off and when people enter the Pepsi Center tonight, it is Joe Biden who will give his acceptance speech, following Bill Clinton who I expect to be equally shrewd.

Unless Biden elevates his game to a whole new level, those who are watching tonight will come away with a sense of what they could have had in Hillary.

Then Obama has to deliver on Thursday night.   In my judgment the campaign has unwisely set him up to disappoint. Instead of doing the acceptance in the “humble” confines of the Pepsi Center as Presidential nominees do, they are using a 75,000 seat football stadium that has a special stage constructed which is over the top in terms of visual image and elevates him above the people to which he is speaking. Moreover, he is doing it on the Anniversary of “MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  He is going to have pull off the speech of his life without creating the impression that he is being inaugurated or that he is a political messiah. The Obama campaign has put him in the dangerous position of overreach on Thursday night. That is unnecessary.

Then, when the campaign leaves Denver Friday, Bill and Hillary will be in the background. It will be Obama and Biden front and center.

I’m not saying Obama and Biden can’t win in November, I am saying that Obama has charted a course that will require the American people decide they prefer him to John McCain. It will be largely one on one, and if McCain chooses a female VP of excellence, the spectre of not choosing Hillary will haunt Obama all the more.

I’m not saying I’d want the Clinton’s living in my house, but they would have brought Obama to the White House.

Now he’s going to have win the keys, in essence, by himself. Which will be a much more difficult task.

John McCain has a prayer and everyone out here knows it.

If last night’s speech was the Vice-Presidential acceptance speech there would have been a disturbance in the Republican force unlike we have seen since 1992.


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