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2004 Redux: A Democratic Convention Without a Message?

“Well, if this party has a message it has done a hell of a job of hiding it tonight I promise you that,” James Carville said on CNN Monday night (see ABC’s The Note). “I look at this and I am about to jump out of my chair.”

What Carville was referring to was the absence of a negative narrative about John McCain. There was emotion last night with Senator Edward Kennedy’s appearance and Michelle Obama scored points by telling her personal story. But as Carville lamented, going back to 2004, the Democrats’ streak of not bashing the GOP record at Democratic National Conventions now stands at five nights.

In 2004, the Democratic convention was anemic when it came to a message, focusing mostly on John Kerry’s Vietnam war service. A few weeks later in New York, the Republicans on the other hand were forceful and consistent with their narrative, repeating over and over again September 11, the threat of danger, the need for a strong leader in a time of change, and the weak, wobbly, elite nature of John Kerry. (See clip above.)

After watching last night’s three hours of speeches and coverage, I am hard pressed to come away with a central theme or narrative. Even worse, while McCain has a master negative narrative on Obama, (“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world and not ready to be president,”) the Obama team seems to be still searching for a similar strategy to use against McCain. Is it four more years of Bush? Is it a wealthy Senator out of touch with the economy?

What do readers think? Is the Democratic convention already off to a failed start?


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