The crowd was amped from the very beginning of the evening. Because last night’s final round of convention festivities was moved indoors, far fewer tickets were available meaning people arrived early to stake their claim on seats.
I arrived at the arena at approximately 5:30 p.m., and the selection looked limited within the Ohio delegation’s block of seating. However, it was determined that some people in the Ohio section did not have the proper credentials, and seats opened. As luck would have it, I was able to snag a front row seat directly in line with the stage. I was about 50 feet away parallel with the left side of the stage (from the speaker’s vantage point).
Tonight’s lineup was particularly strong. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman struck by gunfire at a rally, led the pledge of allegiance. It was truly a great moment that highlighted her recovery, and her appearance sent chills throughout the arena. In-arena entertainment included the Foo Fighters, and they did a very nice job. I was hoping for Springsteen, but the Foo Fighters were on top of their game.
Prior to the vice president and president, two speeches stuck out.
The first was delivered by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Her impassioned speech pointed out, delegation by delegation, the number of jobs saved by the bailout and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Her speech contained many clever one-liners relating both to the auto industry and this election. One of them said that on this year’s ballot, the D for Democrat means drive forward, and the R for Republican means reverse. This was consistent with the theme that played out all week and throughout the rest of the evening.
Former presidential candidate and current U.S. Sen. John Kerry brought forth a very strong performance. His speech focused on foreign policy and how Romney/Ryan is the most inexperienced ticket with regard to foreign policy that we have seen. Kerry delivered a solid indictment on Romney relative to his policy, or lack thereof, on Afghanistan, his trip overseas that contained several stumbles and his view that the Earth should not be moved just to take out one man (Bin Laden).
Kerry even poked at himself remarking that Romney’s evolving policies are really being for something before being against it — a Kerry quote eight years ago that former President George W. Bush used to skewer him and portray him as a waffler and a flip flopper. Kerry’s foreign policy comment did Obama well, and it seems the Obama team, based on Kerry, other speakers throughout the week and a large veteran tribute last night believe foreign policy is an area that is a major asset and needs to be interjected more into the dialogue.
Being part of history for the vice president’s and president’s speeches was unbelievable. The energy, anticipation and excitement for the evening reached breaking points, particularly right before President Obama. I felt that both men did what they needed to do. In addition to the stark contrasts that all speakers highlighted, Biden shed light on his close relationship with Obama, how he thinks, what goes into decision making and how he handles crisis. Biden wanted to tell the American people of the Obama behind closed doors and Obama as a leader. I felt he succeeded on many of those points. Like Clinton the night before, Biden ad-libbed quite a bit and veered out of order a bit from the teleprompter. I suppose one would not expect anything different from him considering his very notable quotes during the course of his career.
I felt President Obama also did well but more importantly did what was necessary. He rightly acknowledged that he is a different man now. He does not want to be legislator Obama, who addressed the convention in 2004 when he was a candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois. He is not presidential candidate Obama as he was in 2008. He is President Obama. His speech this year was not filled with the lofty, grandiose thoughts delivered in years past. Tonight, it was about the progress made in digging out of the financial mess and continuing that progress. The president admitted to imperfections and mistakes but, once again, provided the contrast of this election. He portrayed himself as a champion of the middle class and portrayed Romney as someone who is out of touch and who would take the country back to the policies that put America into its current situation. The president asked for more time to build upon progress already made both on domestic issues and foreign policy issues.
As I previously stated, he did what he needed to do, and overall, he played it safe. That did not diminish the speech but, rather, in my mind, was a mature approach to the very weighty issues that will be present no matter who is victorious in November. It also helped that Obama’s lineup for the past three nights covered issues that he did not necessarily need to retread and, instead, focused on the high stakes of this election.
Overall, the night was an appropriate end to the convention and, in my estimation, an overall good catapult into the final leg of the campaign.
Chase Ritenauer is mayor of Lorain and a delegate to the 2012 Democratic national convention.