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Reaction to the 2007 DNC Winter Meeting

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The crowd watching Obama speak yesterday in the grand ballroom of the Hilton (click image to see larger version).

Our video reaction from yesterday's events is here. Here's a little more on my take:

Top level, my reaction was we’ve really got a great field of candidates this time through. I heard speeches today from three or four candidates whom I would be happy to vote for. I don’t think that I could have said that at this point in the 2004 election. What I saw was a lot of similarity in the speeches, but difference in delivery and degree of depth. Nearly every major Democratic candidate is:

  • Against the escalation of the war
  • For universal healthcare
  • For addressing global warming
  • For alternative energy sources
The difference in degree was more on how we get there. For example, in Iraq, do we go the political route, getting the Congress on record against the war even if it doesn’t cut off funding? Hillary says yes, others said no.

So where there are degrees of difference in policy, we got a preview of how it’s going to play out over the course of the campaign. From John Edwards' speech:
This is not the time for political calculation. This is the time for political courage. Stand up.
And we are Democrats, the party of action – not reaction. We are Democrats, the party of principle – not appeasement. The time for half-measures, empty promises, and sweet rhetoric is gone. Now is the time for courage, decisiveness and moral leadership.
The first quote is clearly a knock on the Hillary approach to politics - calculating and highly political. The second about taking action as opposed to “sweet rhetoric” - wonder who that was referencing?

What this means is that this primary is going to be more about personality than policy. In that sense, this is a wide-open field. What this also means is that these candidates are going to have to appeal to the Democratic primary voter on an emotional level first and on a rational level second. So how did they do? Obama was as compelling a speaker as he’s been billed. He had the room in the palm of his hand. There were hundreds of people there, and at points he had complete silence and attention - hard to do in a room of competitive partisans.

Having said that, Edwards' speech (video), and even Hillary at points, had similar command of the room. Edwards was at least as compelling as I expected, if not more so. Watching him again last night I’m reminded of what I like about him - while I see his "polished" appearance and manner as a little produced at times, he erases that with what I think are compelling messages that come from his heart. From labor to health care to Iraq, Edwards wasn’t afraid to take a stand on what he believes.”It is time to be patriotic about something other than war.” Think about that for a moment - patriotism has been co-opted by the Republican party and twisted into a propaganda line to shut down dialog as our country has been taken down a path of fiscal and foreign policy insanity. I want a candidate who isn’t compromised and truly has the ability to take that back without hesitation.

The other point of distinction between candidates who otherwise agree on the substantive issues is operations and organization. If each of the candidates is saying roughly the same thing, it’s going to be who executes best who gains advantage. In that, Obama has a lot of catching up to do. Very quickly both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton had their DNC speeches up on YouTube and their websites. Even this morning Obama’s website and YouTube don’t have his speech up there - a substantial missed opportunity with no excuse. When people talk about an “inexperienced candidate” it’s not just the gaffes that they make on the campaign trail, it’s failure to quickly capitalize on opportunity also.

Overall, the energy of the 2006 electoral victory remains - there was a palpable sense that the 2008 election is an enormous opportunity for us as Democrats to take back our country. It was a great and positive way to kick off the 2008 election cycle.

Thanks again to the folks and PoliticsTV for helping out with our video.

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