The View from the Watch Party

Watch Party!

You know, when like-minded citizens gather at a lovely host’s house and nibble little baked cheesebuttons and trade watches.

So here’s the thing: from the watch party, Obama knocked the moon off its orbit.

I know lots of talking head types are saying Clinton kicked Obama’s tuchus. Michelle kicked Barack’s tuchus. Everyone was better than Obama. Even Kerry. Maybe even that cutie Costco CEO.

But from the watch party? Obama had one ring to rule them all.

I read a provocative piece from Ezra Klein arguing that Obama’s reelection is very, very high stakes.

If reelected, Obama won’t need Congress to achieve his major policy goals. They’re already in place and just need time to unfurl.

If he loses, then they will all get repealed. Ended before they start.

So you have that factor in his speech.

Here are other fences enclosing the soaring, transcendent rhetoric we were perhaps expecting:

  • Nearly 4 years of GOP rhetoric mocking his “hope and change” catchphrase from 2008
  • Bummer jobs data coming out the next morning
  • The realities of his first term—its limitations, its head-butts, its teeth-grits
  • This year’s campaign strategy: to re-engage 2008’s voters, fight voter suppression laws, and focus especially on women and people of color
  • Can’t blame GOP obstructionism for the limitations of his policies, though it would be true to do so, so he outsourced that to Clinton
  • Impending alien apocalypse

So Obama couldn’t repeat his 2008 performances. He’d look silly. Everyone knows how those promises turned out. There is, in fact, a red America and a blue America. (Responses to) the Obama presidency deepened the wedge between them. Because of that, Obama and Romney are fighting over the thinnest slices of purple.

But, you know, he did pretty well. He got his jokes in. They felt natural. He had some ideas (cutting tuition in half?????!?!?!?!??!?!?!??!?!??!). They felt mostly plausible (SERIOUSLY WHO IS HE TALKING TO ABOUT HIGHER ED?).

And I thought it was clever of him to re-new “hope” by making it about voters. A subtle and smart way to resist the ad hominem attacks from the right.

As someone somewhere online said (I used to be able to keep up with what I read, but sometimes it’s like when the black-bottomed eagle drops Horton’s clover, with all the Whos in Whoville on a dust speck on it, into a thousand-mile field of clover, while the whole extended monkey family mocks him), Obama’s campaign’s main task is to register voters in swing states and then be sure they vote. It’s about the ground game. That’s about all it’s about.

In that respect, the speech isn’t that important.

It’s about the killer field organization. The workers on the ground who didn’t even have time to watch the convention.

The people at the watch party.

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