Last week, the Democratic National Convention moved from an arena to a stadium to give Presidential nominee Barack Obama, the great orator, a huge stage for his acceptance speech.
Last night, the Republican National Convention made more subtle changes to its stage, but they were also designed to play to the candidate's strengths. The stage was thrust into the audience, putting Sen. John McCain among the people, which is where he's most comfortable. After all, this guy has been proposing town hall meetings with Obama. Why? Because that's a forum that works well for him.
And McCain was comfortable last night, speaking simply in front of the simple backdrop of a flag waving on a pole, making an effort to portray himself as a maverick who wants to take his party back from a corrupt GOP.
The reviews weren't great. CNN's Jeffrey Toobin called McCain's speech, "shockingly bad." The National Review's Byron York called it "flat" on Charlie Rose. On Fox News, Bill Kristol defended the speech saying, "I was done so plainly, which is appropriate for McCain. That's how he talks."
And that was right. Maybe it wasn't the best follow up to Obama's big address last week and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin's barnburner Wednesday night. It was anticlimactic, but it did seem authentic.
Documentary: The John McCain introduction video certainly tried to pump up the candidate the way any good campaign video does. But in the gravely voiceover and gritty archival footage, it had more of the feel of a PBS or History Channel documentary than most of the campaign videos we've seen this year, conveying a sense that this is a candidate of history.
Nielsens: Palin's speech Wednesday night drew 37.2 million viewers, just shy of the 38.4 million who tuned in Obama's speech last Thursday.
Piper TV: Prior to McCain's speech, cameras from several networks seemed to linger on 6-year-old Piper Palin, hoping for another quintessential cute moment like her hairstyling scene Wednesday with baby brother Trig.
Hail to the . . . oh, well: I kept switching over to see how my Redskins were doing on the NFL's opening night, and they didn't give me much to cheer about.
Gotta have Heart: I never ever, ever, ever thought I'd hear Heart's Barracuda played in a political convention. Never even considered it. But, with the nomination of Sarah "Barracuda" Palin -- her high school basketball nickname -- as vice-president, I guess it was inevitable. Wednesday night, I expected to hear John Mellencamp's Small Town after Palin's speech. UPDATE: Heart has denounced Palin and asked the Republicans to stop using Barracuda.
Obama meets O'Reilly: Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama actually got some airtime last night sitting down with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News. O'Reilly has been angling for this interview for a while, and since it would likely be his only chance to sit down with the senator, he seemed to want to address longer-term questions than any news of the day. It was a spirited exchange, and a few times I really wanted O'Reilly to get out of the way and let Obama give complete answers -- this is a gripe I have with the interview styles of several broadcasters, NBC's Matt Lauer in particular.
Last night's interview focused on national security. Subsequent portions of the interview will be aired Monday through Wednesday and will focus on other issues including Obama's controversial association with William Ayers, former leader of the Weather Underground, a 1960s and '70s organization the FBI labeled, "a domestic terrorist group."
The one major sticking point O'Reilly and Obama had was over a conservative sore point: the belief that Obama won't admit the recent troop surge in Iraq was a success, and he was wrong in voting against it. Obama did say, through O'Reilly's interruptions, that he did believe it was a success in reducing the violence. But he didn't believe that it was successful in getting Iraqis to take more responsibility for their country, and he stood by the vote against the surge because he didn't trust the Bush administration to successful prosecute the surge. But, O'Reilly wanted Obama to say, "I was wrong," and since he didn't say that, the conservative commentator said in a chat after the interview segment aired that Obama hadn't answered the question. That's a hazard of submitting to an interview with a partisan on either side of the aisle. It will be interesting to see the next installments of this exchange. (Photo, right: Obama campaigns in Dillonvale, Ohio, Wednesday. AP photo by Alex Brandon.)
Funny: On Charlie Rose, Newsweek's John Meecham compared Palin to Fortinbras, the character in Hamlet who comes in at the end and makes everything all right. Funny thing is, the last time I saw Fortinbras, a comedy based on the character, performed in Lexington, the title character was played by one of the most devout liberals I know.
That's it: Well, seven nights of conventioning are over. Now both campaigns head out into the wild frontier of the campaign trail, away from the embrace of the faithful. I'm tempted play campaign manger for a moment. If I were heading McCain's outfit, the rest of the campaign's theme would be portraying McCain and Palin as "The Mavericks." If I was Obama's messenger, I'd go to Chicago and create a series of ads on what a community organizer does. There's probably a reason no one is paying me to run their campaigns. But, I am a political junkie with a blog, so Copious Notes will continue to keep an eye on how Campaign 2008 is being covered and file posts when interesting things come up, including the debates and election day.
The talking heads seemed to all agree that right now, this election is about the personalities of the candidates, which is interesting considering the issues the nation faces. This has already been the nuttiest election I've seen, and older friends concur, so this is gonna be fun.
Read Ryan Alessi's piece about the significant role Kentuckians played in events on the final day of the Republican convention.