The two political conventions are over and the question is: who won?
We will know in a week or so. The Republicans, with a bland speech by Mitt Romney, a speech by Paul Ryan that drove the fact-checkers crazy, and with Clint Eastwood…, they did not have a strong convention. It seems that they received only the smallest of bounces in the polls, but the verdict is not in yet, for either party.
I would be surprised, though, if the Democrats do not come out ahead, thanks to the cumulative effect of the past three days in Charlotte. It had the better speeches and the greater enthusiasm. It had the unforgettable testimony by Michelle Obama and the equally unforgettable, masterly lecture by Bill Clinton. And, of course, last night it had Barack Obama himself, whose speech left the delegates enthusiastic and strengthened in their resolve to win in November, although he did not deliver another glorious, mesmerizing speech that we have almost been spoiled with. It was a good speech, more than ok, solid, and, at times, eloquent, but there was also somehow something missing.
Joe Klein on his blog in Time Magazine was disappointed. He wrote that the president did not close the deal and it left Klein him wondering what Obama will do in his second term, if he is re-elected. And John Cassidy in The New Yorker wrote that the president was playing it safe, short on new ideas and policy proposals, knowing he was head in the polls and not wanting to give the Republicans new ammunition.
I don’t know, maybe our expectations were set too high, maybe we failed to take into account the fact that, this time, it was the President speaking, not a young State Senator like in 2004, or a presidential candidate like in 2008. Here was a battle-hardened leader of the country, who had been dealt an awful hand, and who realized that things were not improving as fast as he, or the country, would like. Yet, he said that the country was better off today than four years ago and that the choice in November was one between going forward and turning back to the failed policies of the Bush years, policies that got us in this fix in the first place.
“All they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years: “Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.” “Deficit too high? Try another.” “Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
And, he asked for more time:
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
Today, on Friday morning, the hard reality struck when the latest job figures were published, pointing to a continued slow recovery. Only 96,000 new jobs were created in August, although unemployment decreased from 8.3 to 8.1 percent, but mostly because so many had stopped looking for a job.
Will such numbers decide the election or will the American people let Obama continue his unfinished work? That’s the big question.