This past week, a POLITICO article by Mike Allen caught my eye. According to Allen, President Obama's advisers “are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who 'would devastate the American middle class.'”
One wonders how such a divisive attack, with no basis in reality, would "appeal to independents," but that aside, showcasing members of another party who support the president is a familiar, and typically beneficial, tactic. We've become used to seeing a handful of "crossover endorsements"--prominent figures affiliated with one political party who endorse the other party's nominee--in each presidential election, and it's not uncommon for each party to feature at least one such speaker at their national convention. (The most glaring example of the last generation has to be then-Sen. Zell Miller's keynote address at the 2004 Republican National Convention.) Remember Sen. Joe Lieberman's impassioned speech to the Republican National Convention in 2008? The use of this tactic this year, however, presents both parties with different problems.
Republicans' Embarrassment of Riches
Giving a well-known Democrat a a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention has become a tradition in presidential-election years, but this election cycle presents the RNC with a predicament they've not faced, at least not to this extent, in a long time: With so many rising stars and erudite "young guns" and a limited amount of time in which to showcase them (to a large audience), who gets picked? We can already count on seeing/hearing speeches from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Rob Portman (Ohio), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rand Paul (R-KY), Govs. Mary Fallin (Okla.), Nikki Haley (SC), John Kasich (Ohio), Susana Martinez (N.M.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Bob McDonnell (VA) and Bobby Jindal (La.), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR) and Jeb Bush (Fla.), former Sen. and 2012 presidential contender Rick Santorum, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and Connie Mack, and of course New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address, but what of Rep. Allen West (R., Fla.), the GOP congressman and conservative rock star? Anyone who's seen West address a crowd should know he's a dynamic, engaging speaker. Ditto Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), though I suppose her firebrand persona may detract from her effectiveness as a spokeswoman. There's also the question of whether Speaker Boehner will address the convention; surely the highest-ranking Republican in the federal government, a man who's third in line for the presidency under the 25th Amendment, ought to be at least offered a prominent role at the Republican National Convention. For that matter, what about our party elders? Thus far, neither President Bush has been slated to speak, at least not publicly (although I would understand if the elder Bush has tired of the more festive side of politics and would prefer to just enjoy his retirement in peace and quiet), nor has Newt Gingrich, which kind of makes sense, but why would you have Santorum speak and not Newt? (If it's because Santorum is the designated red-meat-thrower to social conservatives in a convention that will be focused on economic issues, then I get it.)
With so many speakers already lined up and (hopefully) more announcements to come, I wondered if the committee would have room--or make room--for a Democrat. My query was answered when I learned that former Rep. Artur Davis (D., Ala.), who co-chaired President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and ran (unsuccessfully) for governor of Alabama in 2010, would be speaking at the Convention in Tampa. Of course, Davis technically is no longer a Democrat; in May, he officially switched to the Republican Party and endorsed Mitt Romney.
Despite their high-minded ideas for convention speakers, Democrats may have some trouble finding a prominent Republican (or former Republican) counterweight to Davis; according to Allen, they have designs on a couple former Senators and maybe a man in uniform:
Convention planners are considering featuring a centrist Republican leader on at least two of the three nights. Nightly remotes from swing states may include a CEO or “major Republican.” On Wednesday night, a “notable GOP woman” is among the possible participants. And on the final night, Democrats may include a Republican leader — someone like former Sens. John Warner or Chuck Hagel — or a GOP woman.
“This segment would speak directly to independents, noting we are all ‘Americans first,’ ” the documents say. “Depending on the speaker’s background, the President’s military accomplishments might be highlighted.”
Thursday also may include a former military leader, perhaps paired with a former enlisted man or woman. “Ideally they would have witnessed first-hand the difficult decisions [Obama has] made,” the documents say. “A Republican leader would be ideal.”
Unfortunately for Democrats, John Warner has made clear that he will “continue” the path he charted upon leaving the Senate in 2009 to follow “a traditional Virginia ‘golden silence’ as regards politics at all levels.” Hagel is more of a wild card; despite having a pretty conservative voting record in his twelve years on the Hill, the irascible Nebraskan curiously refused to endorse his colleague and fellow Vietnam veteran John McCain in the 2008 election; he later joined the Obama Administration and endorsed Joe Sestak (D), the very left-wing Democratic congressman, in his (unsuccessful) 2010 U.S. Senate bid. Still, he has yet to make an endorsement in this race, though he has repeatedly praised Obama and made some bizarre comments about the Republican Party.
Allen's Politico piece also underscored how Democrats may be setting themselves up for a disappointment--or even a disaster--in planning this year's convention. According to what Allen calls "convention planning documents," one objective of the convention will be, “Tell the story of the President’s accomplishments — the auto rescue, manufacturing, ending the war, health care, energy — as central to his fight for the middle class and America’s long-term economic strength.”
This shows that the Democrats charged with planning and organizing the convention are either (1) deluded about President Obama's record or (2) planning a convention marked by blatant lies and propaganda. One wonders what "accomplishments" on manufacturing, health care and energy the Dems are planning to tout, but I seized on that "ending the war" line; as I opined back in June, President Obama's credit-grabbing for ending the war in Iraq has crossed the line from shameless to offensive. The evidence is iron-clad that he deserves no credit for "ending the war," and if this were a bigger issue, then I'd expect Republicans to make a bigger deal about it.
Similarly, there's this:
Aiming to connect the cerebral Obama with average Americans — and thus emphasize one of Romney’s most notable weaknesses — the convention will try to portray the president as “driven by the same values we have, because he’s faced the same struggles.”
Yes, I think we can all empathize with the struggles Obama had faced. Remember when you were trying to decide which elective courses to register for during your second year at Harvard Law School? Or that agonizing heartburn you suffered after eating your first dog? Remember when you had to throw your spiritual mentor and longtime friend under the bus once he became a political liability, or how hard you've had to work to distract people from the terrible economy your disastrous policies have created?
Sardonic wit aside, notice how Obama is "cerebral" (Allen's word), whereas "one of Romney’s most notable weaknesses" has to do with connecting with people. (It's not Obama's fault he can't connect with voters! He's just too smart for most of those ignorant hicks!) Allen details other ill-conceived marketing ideas:
The convention’s broad themes depict Romney as “an exemplar of [the] bust-and-boom economy,” while “Obama led us through the darkest days of the deepest recession in generations. … Now he’s fighting for the next steps, so we do more than recover from a deep recession that was a long time in the making, and reclaim America’s promise on behalf of hard-workers, the strivers, the dreamers, who ask only for a fair shot and a fair shake.”
By Democratic standards, that's pretty clever. When your party's candidate made the bad economy he inherited worse, that needn't be a negative; just emphasize how your guy "led us through the darkest days of the deepest recession in generations" (hoping most people don't know the definition of "generations"). I have to admit, I do like that part about Obama "fighting ... on behalf of hard-workers, the strivers, the dreamers, who ask only for a fair shot and a fair shake."
Yeah, it's about damn time we had someone who will fight for the monied interests and coastal elites! Who will speak for the Solyndras, the union bosses, the radical environmentalists? Who but Obama will keep crony capitalism alive and prevent the spiggot showering GE and other favored enterprises with federal tax dollars from being turned off by those awful, austerity-minded fiscal conservatives? Okay, maybe Elizabeth Warren, but she's not running for president.