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Thursday, September 06, 2012

 2:00 PM 

Delegate Diary: Clinton's speech delivered

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Sachin Chheda
Delegate diary
I'd love to write something pithy and wonderful right now. But a) I'm exhausted, and b) I'm pretty sure that most readers of this blog will have seen the entire Clinton speech or at least have read some coverage.

There is no doubt it was one of the best speeches I've ever seen. President Clinton has an amazing ability to engage an audience and make everyone in the room feel like he's talking directly to you. I don't say that necessarily as a fan -- it's just an observation. He's a very, very talented and charismatic politician. He makes one a fan even when you're not -- heck, the GOP thinks he's great too, now. Apparently.

And, for us delegates with very, very high expectations, he delivered. Even with all the politics, and all the speeches, it feels like every conversation I've had today has been about the Clinton speech.

Now, we're re-electing Barack Obama, so is that a problem? No, because we also saw genuine passion for the president. The hug was real. And I was convinced completely last night, that even though President 42 may have not liked President 44 very much in 2008, after the very close primaries, now I know that the Man from Hope truly does like and appreciate Hope and Change.

I'm writing on mid-day Thursday, and my body is dragging. The lack of sleep takes a toll. Yesterday I skipped one session to get some work done, and then made it to only two of the four events I wanted to attend in the afternoon. I couldn't drag myself around fast enough. It seems like now there are more small events -- receptions and the like, and less of the bigger events. Although, many of our delegation were off to see FLOTUS this morning at a women's caucus meeting, and I'm sure it was packed.

On the floor last night, until about 10 p.m. EDT, the energy level was clearly lower than the night before. The audience responded most, it seemed, to Sister Simone of Nuns on the Bus and Sandra Fluke. Union leaders Bob King and Richard Trumka fired up the crowd at points, but people seemed distracted. The CarMax and Costco CEOs had compelling messages, but as they are not accomplished orators, I'm not sure the room got the full effect. I missed the earliest speakers and the "panoramic photo" because I was attending an event for the Fair Share Alliance, but I heard the photo was fun and that people enjoyed seeing Gabby Douglas.

However, as the Costco guy methodically explained how he knew he wasn't alone in building his business, the crowd started to get into it. And when Elizabeth Warren hit the stage, the crowd treated her like a star. In the room, the speech was fantastic. This is not a room where people are enamored of big corporate power, and her lines about corporations not being people, because people live, die, fall in love, cry, laugh ... those will be memorable. She also reminded people of her humble beginnings, and that was important for an audience that knows her as an advocate.

Then, of course, President Clinton. He tore apart every Republican attack, and he did it with a smile, even graciously. His lines about birtherism and Paul Ryan's "brass" were brilliant. I think the meme about "It takes some brass to ..." is likely to stick with us for the whole campaign. But he moved quickly off the humor and into the substance, and I think devastatingly showed how independents will view this race. I saw the GOP had no response other than to try to draw a mythical gulf between Clinton and Obama, and that doesn't strike me as particularly compelling. As long as it was, it seemed like no one in the room wanted it to end.

Anyway, I could go on about it all day. After the speech, we had to wait through more than 50 other states and territories to announce our votes in the Roll Call, but it was a great time for camaraderie as we arranged ourselves around the podium. By the time we got out of the arena, it was 1 a.m. and there was time only for one quick stop at a party before heading back to the hotel.

This morning, our final delegation breakfast had another great lineup. Valerie Jarrett joined us, and reminded the delegation that in addition to the issues, this election will be about trust. People know the Obamas, and they like them and trust them. The president does what he says he's going to do. John Nichols reminded Wisconsin of our great tradition of support for civil rights, telling a story about how still-Senator Fred Risser led the Wisconsin delegation out so its seats could be given to African Americans at a convention more than 40 years ago. Rob Zerban fired up the crowd with the idea that people in Wisconsin's 1st CD are the only ones who can beat Paul Ryan twice and had a great line about how he would be the first classically trained chef in Congress, which is good because they're not only cooking the books, but burning them.

Governor Doyle and Senator Kohl both were very warmly and enthusiastically received. Doyle talked about the importance of helping people understand what's really in health reform, and like a fan after a game, just shared with the audience our appreciation of President Clinton's speech. Senator Kohl had the crowd in stitches with his stories, and it felt valedictory, as this will be his last convention as a sitting senator. He got an extended ovation. It closed with Tammy Baldwin's passionate reminder that real people are affected by the serious issues facing the country, and that right now, middle class people are falling behind because there's one set of rules for the wealthy, and one for the rest of us. And we need one set of rules for all.

It's been a work day today, but I'll be heading back to central Charlotte this afternoon to rejoin the activities and will post my last piece tomorrow.

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