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Thursday, August 28, 2008

 9:07 AM 

Analysis: Democrats ready for the fight

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Chris Micklos
Commentary
Four years ago, the first commandment of John Kerry's Democratic National Convention was "speak no evil." Translation: There was to be no criticism of President Bush and the Republicans. Every now and then a speech managed to slip by the censors (clearly, President Carter didn't get the memo), but overall, it was a gentle convention that left the Republican candidate unscathed. Then, when the Republicans took the stage at their own convention, they destroyed Kerry, who never recovered and never effectively fought back. For those who may have missed it, Kerry lost.

Democrats in Denver have been worried over the past couple of days that Barack Obama hadn't learned a lesson of the Kerry campaign and would let John McCain off the hook, as well.

After three days of Barack Obama's DNC, Democrats are starting to feel good about a candidate -- and a campaign -- willing to fight back.

I don't expect Obama himself to use his acceptance speech to blast away at John McCain, but after a slow start earlier in the week, this convention has featured a line-up of speakers who have stepped up to the microphone and taken McCain to task. On Wednesday night, in primetime, that lineup included President Bill Clinton, Sen. John Kerry (apparently he learned a lesson, too), and Obama's vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden.

Their collective take on John McCain was a lacerating indictment of McCain's campaign, his judgment, and his pledge to bring America four more years of President Bush's foreign and domestic policy.

None of the speakers was more effective than Joe Biden, and his performance bodes awfully well for the next two months of the Obama-Biden campaign.

Simply put, Biden showed why Obama picked him as his running mate. He was down to earth and plain spoken. His story was moving and demonstrative of working-class values and concerns. And his criticisms of John McCain were backed up by his own stature and credibility.

Biden questioned McCain's judgment on foreign policy.

Biden criticized McCain's failure to support an increased minimum wage.

Biden took McCain to task for his support for tax breaks for the corporate special interests.

And through it all, Biden came off as reasonable, credible, and a voice of working-class families around the country. By comparison, when Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty -- two of McCain's potential VP picks -- criticize Obama, they seem petulant and petty.

More important, though, than the effectiveness of Biden was the willingness of the Obama campaign to take the gloves off and get into the fight. This marks a dramatic change from the last presidential election and makes an Obama victory more likely than it would otherwise be.

Voters won't believe that a candidate will fight for them if he's not willing to fight for himself, and Barack Obama is starting to show voters that he's a fighter.

-- Micklos is partner and senior strategist at Visuality, a Madison-based media consulting firm. Contact him at chris@visuality.com.

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