[author: William C. Talmadge]
All through the summer, the Obama campaign and its allies hammered Mitt Romney with a relentless series of negative ads, the intention apparently being to divert voters’ attention from the economy. But by all accounts, the message wasn’t taking - Romney held steady at 47%.
In his acceptance speech, it was time for President Obama to go positive and awaken the inspirational echoes of the 2008 campaign. And he had to do so before a group of supporters many of whom were at least somewhat disillusioned by his first term and who perhaps were less likely to vote this time around.
So how do you make the negatives stick, while rekindling the fires in the hearts of the base?
Enter Bill Clinton. In the course of a 45 minute speech, the former President launched the following missiles against Republicans and the Romney/Ryan ticket:
• The Republican Right has turned politics into a blood sport that believes that government is the enemy and compromise is weakness
• They want a return to the same policies which have almost crippled us: cut taxes for high income Americans, lift the regulations on the financial industry which was primarily responsible for our recent collapse, increase defense spending by two trillion more dollars than even the Pentagon requested, without telling us how they plan to spend that money
• Romney opposed the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors, which has generated 250,000 new jobs and saved an entire industry
• Congressman Ryan advocated for the same amount of Medicare reductions ($716 billion) as opposed by President Obama. Yet he attacks the Obama proposal as his “biggest and coldest power play”
• Republicans will convert Medicaid into a block grant program, which will hurt poor kids, and cut funds from nursing homes which treat seniors and people with disabilities.
This list is by no means exhaustive. But you get the picture.
President Clinton clearly enjoys the limelight and on this occasion, he was at his best. He succeeded in doing what President Obama needed him to - taking the Republican Party and the Romney/Ryan ticket head on, and exposing the weaknesses of their arguments in a way that only someone who had been in the White House for 8 years could do. Their embrace at the end of Clinton’s 50 minute speech was surprisingly sincere and set the stage for Obama’s acceptance speech the following night. This allowed the current occupant to deliver a positive message to the American public. By most accounts, both Presidents achieved their goals.