Here are a few of my immediate observations of today’s State Democratic Convention down at the ‘ol San Diego convention center. (Where the motto is “It doesnn’t matter how beautiful a sunny day it is. While in the Convention Center you will feel not a ray!) The main event, after speeches by everyone from Mike Aguirre to Nancy Pelosi, were addresses by four of the Democratic presidential candidates
Hillary Clinton? She is the consummate professional, approaching this race with the steady confidence of a five time champ hitting the courts at Wimbledon. She has the name. Though, on that score, she only mentioned hubby once during her speech, in passing reference. But Bill’s presence hovers around the campaign. At her follow up press conference, he, or the lack of he, was a major point of questioning. When asked if electing her was a “twofer” she pointed out that there is only one driver’s seat in any car. “And guess which one of us would ask for directions?” she quipped. She has the money, the big guns political support, the experience and the poise to go all the way and she knows it. Likelihood of her committing a Bidenesque gaffe, which may well be the only way she loses this thing? Zilch. If she wasn’t shaken out of her tree by Monicagate, the trials and tribulations of this campaign won’t rock her boat, either. At this point, early as it is, it would appear only an Obama insurgency could derail her. (Unless the Democrats have some really big name, mega charismatic candidate to run which no-one has, as of yet, ever heard from) Which leads to…
Barack Obama? Jeeeesuss. He is that good! He gave by far the most engaging, charismatic and articulate speech of the day. No, he didn’t give a speech. He gave an oration of classical rhetorical style. Bill Clinton meets Martin Luther King delivered with a universal Midwestern accent. (Which, of course, is a contradiction in terms.) And the crowd went wild for him, with more supporters turning out to lead the cheer than did for Hillary, more people crowding the hall than for Hillary (press included) and louder applauses and cheers greeting his words. By just about any traditional measure Obama is at a big disadvantage running against Clinton. But there is a charismatic air of destiny about him that gives hint of the oft discussed but seldom seen political event: the true election upset.
Chris Dodd? Dodd is dead. He says the same things as Hillary, Barack et. al – universal health care: in; Iraq: out—but he doesn’t say them as well as either Hillary or Barack. He’s not quirky like Kucinich. There is simply no sense of destiny about him. He got rousing applause and cheers when he addressed each of the hot button issues – health care, the war, how badly Bush has bashed American standing in the world—but the support was for the concepts, not the man. His post-speech press conference had exactly one camera at it and a smattering of reporters. Hilary’s was SRO with cameras spilling off the raised platform in the back of the room. (Barack did no press, during personal meet and greets for selected supporters. Had he done press, it would have been a zoo.) If the convention is any indication, Dodd, will be gone in a matter of months.
Dennis Kucinich? He’s the Jerry Brown/Ralph Nader of the campaign. Again. Like Brown in 1996 and Nader in 2000 (and himself in 2004) he gets coverage mostly for the outrageousness of his run. Little short dude with a big hair comb over, beautiful young wife that accompanies him everywhere, nailing down the far left plank of the Democratic platform, he’s the odd man out the press likes to cover because he adds a quirkiness that makes good copy. Most of his ideas are not as far outside of the Democratic mainstream as his critics and the press make out. His speech to the convention hit the same themes as his rivals though, on the issue of Iraq, he went the step farther to say what he would do post-US pull out (aid programs, international peacekeepers, regional diplomacy). And he likes to throw impeachment red meat at blue state delegates. At one point the hall chanted along with him “impeach the vice president.” What struck me most was how much he smiled through his speech. Kucinich runs even though he knows he has no chance not because he loves the process of campaigning. He runs because he loves the adulation of the crowd. He may speak a populist game but his run strikes me as the ultimate in vanity candidacy.
The press corps vote is in, at least. Once Obama finished his speech Saturday afternoon the cameras were turned off and the reporters went home en masse, leaving Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich to speak to a largely camera-less hall with a rapidly shrinking attendance.
The Clinton campaign runs with Republicaneque attention to detail (with the one exception being her chronic lateness…) For example, Hillary’s supporters on the floor wore matching blue polo shirts, carried professionally made signs and moved with Germanlike precision. Barac’s crew, meanwhile, wore street clothes, carried homemade signs and made the most joyous noise by far as they moved organically through the aisles. Dennis’ supporters likewise wore streets but had professional signs, were few but enthusiastic and somewhat scraggigly in organization.
Chris Dodd had no people. He’s a kinda lonely guy.