I’m not hanging on every word or speech occuring right now in Denver--neither are most other Americans, if ratings are any guide--but I get the sense that this convention is a letdown. Not a disaster, but a letdown. Having built up these enormous expectations, Obama and his supporting cast can’t deliver. I see hints of Obama trying to dampen expectations for his big stadium speech tomorrow. (See Byron York on this subject.) He may regret having eschewed the traditional convention hall speech.
The basic problem of Democrats is that it is committed to the idea that the Era of Big Government is Back, but when all of the constraints—fiscal and cognitive (see: Hayek)--cannot be overcome, and when the general program is not wildly popular with a majority of the public. (I have long thought that it was only a matter of time and gas prices before Americans swung rapidly to a pro-drilling opinion; that time has arrived, and Democrats will get run over if they really decide to stand with the Greens.) Hence the increasing reliance on shallow slogans and the philosophy of victimhood. Not that Republicans are much better in practice (see: Bush’s spending and regulatory record), but at least a presumption in favor of the private sector and individual initiative is a place that most of the public is more comfortable with.
In retrospect Obama’s European victory tour was a mistake. Suddenly the McCain campaign has its act together, and is hitting Obama daily. Obama’s counterpunches have been few and far between. McCain’s stumbles on the houses may actually work to his advantage if it keeps Romney off the ticket (a weak pick in my mind).
Forget Obama’s half-brother. (I know, I know, I brough it up. . .) The Ayers business is starting to look a lot more interesting to me.
Finally, Obama has been compared to Reagan, in that both emerged as national figures on account of a single speech given at a propitious moment. Both had some dubious alliances from their past to unwind (Reagan and the John Birch Society, for instance). Both faced doubts among voters; Reagan overcame his at the last moment to win decisively. But there is an obvious difference. Reagan at least had run a major state as an executive for two terms. He was actually relieved when his half-hearted run in 1968 ended; he told more than one person that he wasn’t ready to be president yet. I have long thought that had Reagan actually won the nomination and the election in 1968 after just two years as governor, he’d have made a poor president and had an unsuccessful administration. I doubt Obama has any such self-awareness or humble doubts about himself.
Finally, if you hook up the Clintons to a polygraph, I am sure it would reveal they hope for a McCain victory. Does anyone really think otherwise? (P.S. A comment on Peter’s thread below says Hillary’s speech was comparable to Reagan’s impromptu speech for Ford in 1976. Actually, Reagan never even mentioned Ford’s name in his brief remarks--a fact barely noted at the time.)