11.01 pm. Unlike Biden, Obama knows how to build a speech: "Yes, our path is harder but it leads to a better place." The Christianity of the man shines through at moments like this. He isn't promising heaven and earth (and he didn't last time, either); he's promising persistence in defending the middle class in a globalizing world economy and increasing social and economic inequality.
I don't think it was a game-changer. I do think it sets an optimistic tone for the campaign and a stark choice for Americans this fall. This convention was much better than last week's. Clinton's speech alone was worth the whole thing. But this will now be decided in the debates. They will be more than usually vital. I suspect Obama kept his waverers on his side tonight, fired up his base, but failed to break away. We'll see.
I loved him. But I'm biased. I think he's been the best thing to happen to America in a long time and he has achieved more in tougher circumstances against historical odds than anyone has a right to expect. I cannot justify supporting this man and his ambitious attempt to re-balance America at home and abroad in 2008 and not helping him see it through to the end.
And I suspect that, even in these difficult times, many will give this sincere man a chance to prove himself and realize his full promise with four more years. You don't vote for a man who plays a long game and call it quits at half-time. At least Americans don't.
11 pm. He has now inverted the "hope" theme. He isn't giving Americans hope; they are giving it to him by their response to the challenges of the last few years. And I'm sure it's sincere. The story of the recovering veteran is used to tell a story about a recovering America.
10.59 pm. A note of humility and a beautiful nod to Lincoln:
While I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."
10.57 pm. "Only you have the power to move us forward." And this concrete and rooted speech is gaining rhetorical flight. It has been shrewdly constructed.
10.55 pm. The best way to defuse the leadership cult is to throw the leadership back to the people. You are the ones we've been waiting for. And "You did that" is a nice retort to "You didn't build that."
10.54 pm. Great line:
A freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
10.51 pm. Now the rebuttal of the insane GOP attacks on his alleged hatred of success. And a word – citizenship. Yes, that concept was absent from the GOP convention.
10.47 pm. Now the debt. Thank God. And he's gaining momentum. And he says that he'd be willing to sign a Bowles-Simpson-style budget deal – but the Republicans insist on tax cuts for millionaires. He's on a roll now. That was what I hoped he'd say – and he did.
10.46 pm. Frankie nails it:
10.41 pm. He certainly feels passionate about education. I'm puzzled by the speech so far – many fewer attacks on the opposition than I expected. But it's obviously designed to look forward, a delicate balance between acknowledging current pain while projecting confidence about the future. But so far, this is not his best. It's a pudding with a theme that hasn't quite gelled yet. Maybe it will.
10.37 pm. This feels like a State of the Union – not a convention rallying cry.
10.33 pm. Ridiculing the tax-cut solution to any problem was effective. But the core argument is that he has a plan – a harder plan that is not all government action – that is more than a rehash of Reaganomics three decades too late. But notice that this speech is far from the rhetorical flights of fancy of the past. It's more sober; it's more detailed.
10.30 pm. There's almost as much nostalgia in this speech as there was in Romney's. But it's a sober and slow start.
10.28 pm. A dry joke about being sick of hearing him "approve this message." Then a quick pivot to the choice election he wanted and has now gotten.
10.15 pm. Finally, a moral defense of health insurance reform. "He took the harder and more honorable path" on fighting al Qaeda, says Clinton. And the theme is about stoicism, grit, patriotism. It's a riposte to the "corporations are people" meme. People are people, the message seems to be – but Romney simply cannot understand that because he is so wrapped up in the "Bain way."
10.12 pm. This photograph of Gabby Giffords being hugged backstage by her husband, Mark Kelly, says more than words can:
By Kevork Djansezian of Getty.
10.10 pm. I'm still reeling from the juxtaposition of Dick Durbin and Prince.
10.08 pm. The ad-libbing was classic Biden; the Irish passion at times reminsicent of a Kennedy. But it was also strange; it ebbed and flowed; it digressed into vagueness and then snapped back into a clarion call. As a speech it was wanting. As a way to remind white ethnic voters why many of them voted for a mixed race community organizer, it was well-crafted.
10.06 pm. Biden catches himself – and me – in the emotion of remembering the fallen in war.
10.02 pm. Then a tub-thumping defense of American exceptionalism. This speech is designed precisely for those Reagan Democrats and wavering Independents, especially men, who want their politics with testosterone. A good line: "private sector, not the privileged sector."
9.59 pm. "What he doesn't understand …" That's the attack on Romney: a nice guy who simply cannot get what it is to be middle class.
9.58 pm. The Onion reports:
Accepting his renomination at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden countered recent Republican criticisms by asserting that most Americans were indeed better off than they were four years ago, but he acknowledged that life still paled in comparison to that one “killer fucking” summer in 1987.
9.56 pm. He's drifting a little now. Only Clinton can ad lib the way Biden is trying to.
9.49 pm. Biden is the best man to deliver the Osama bin Laden message and his smart description of it as the healing of a deep wound. He also importantly noted how the raid was presaged in the debates and had been Obama's policy before the election as well. I didn't think I'd hear a Democratic vice-president attacking the Republican nominee for not being willing to move heaven and earth to kill one mass murderer.
9.46 pm. Biden isn't tackling Romney aggressively. This is a speech to independents – and a smart retort to the Romney message that Obama "doesn't understand" the economy. What he's saying is that Romney "doesn't understand" the middle class.
9.42 pm. I guess that foreign policy lecture is on hold. But we're back to the auto-bailout. The strategy of the speech is pretty obvious: he's offering a personal testimonial to Obama's concern for the white working classes. This is about rallying that white vote a little.
9.37 pm. Biden is feeling the middle class's pain right now. There's a not-so-subtle implication that Biden and Obama have had to face tough times in their earlier years in ways that Mitt Romney didn't. But there's also an appeal to men here, white working class men, for whom employment is indeed more than money.
9.36 pm. The atmosphere has suddenly become quiet and intense. I just wish Joe Biden knew what "enormity" means.
9.34 pm. Notice how Biden is actually not talking about himself. Which is a rarity. This is about Obama and his character and his record. And he's absolutely right to take us back to what Obama faced in early 2009: an economic emergency unlike any since the 1930s. The crowd is silent.
9.31 pm. After all these years, the hair plugs are slowly surrendering to reality.
9.28 pm. I'm with Bernstein on this:
[I]f the Democrats asked me, my advice for the Joe Biden speech would be to have a foreign policy focus, and go as substantive and wonkish as possible — bookending the Clinton focus on mostly domestic policy, and contrasting with the Republican ticket's historic lack of foreign policy and national security credentials.
9.25 pm. A photograph (by Getty's Joe Raedle) that would not appear at the GOP convention, especially not involving a congressman and his spouse:
9.23 pm. The Joe Biden video is pure Americana. On the middle class: "They're not looking for a hand-out; they're looking for a shot."
9.20 pm. A late start. And the interwebs are still buzzing about the Jennifer Granholm meltdown which appeared to be her own Howard Dean moment. Money clip:
(Photo of Obama by Justin Sullivan/Getty)