Supporters cheer as President Barack Obama accepts his party’s nomination for president for a second time Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention Charlotte, N.C. | Brendan Smialowski~AFP/Getty Images
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:37PM
I wrote a few days ago that if the Democrats could maintain the enthusiasm they showed on the first day of their convention for all three days, Mitt Romney would be in serious trouble.
They did, and he is.
If this is not what the polls currently show, try to remember that polls are not destiny. And you should not let them shape it.
Democratic enthusiasm — real fire-in-the-belly enthusiasm — is a killer for Romney for one big reason:
There is no sizable pro-Romney movement in this country. There has been a sizable anti-Obama movement.
There are relatively few Republicans deeply in love with Romney. (I except his family, friends and paid staff.)
There never has been. Romney won his nomination by being the most electable general election candidate in a weak and whacky primary field.
He won, in other words, not by devotion, but by default. His campaign is fueled by dislike for and disappointment with Barack Obama. That dislike and disappointment is real.
In 1996, the last time a Democratic president ran for re-election, there was a significant anti-Bill Clinton movement in this country. This was before the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But a lot of right-wingers hated Bill Clinton and felt he was guilty of unspeakable crimes like murder and drug-trafficking. That didn’t mean there was a significant pro-Bob Dole movement, however. And Clinton won easily by 8.5 percentage points.
This is not 1996. The economy is bad, the cast of characters has changed, and nobody is going to win by 8.5 percentage points.
But the dynamic is the same: It is harder to turn out a vote against someone than a vote for someone.
Anger is not a movement. Disappointment is not a cause. And passionate support is an antidote to both.
Except for a very sloppy bobble over their platform, the Democrats staged a masterful convention. It went from Michelle to Bill to Biden and Barack. The emotion built every night, and something very unusual was revealed.
There has been a shocking transformation in the American political landscape. As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times tweeted Thursday night: “A striking difference between conventions: Military service, patriotism are center stage at Democratic convention and nearly absent at GOP.”
Virtually overnight, the Democrats have become the party of strength and loyalty to country. This is a huge role reversal.
And Mitt Romney gave the Democrats an opening by what he said — or, rather, failed to say — in his acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., last week.
As Sen. John Kerry, Democrat from Massachusetts, said in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday night: “No nominee for president should ever fail in the midst of a war to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech. They are on the front lines every day defending America, and they deserve our thanks.”
The Democrats have also elevated the killing of Osama bin Laden to an actual difference between the two candidates.
Joe Biden said: “When [Romney] was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, ‘It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.’ He was wrong.”
Biden said that “Barack understood that the search for bin Laden was about a lot more than taking a monstrous leader off the battlefield.”
It was about sending a message “to terrorists around the world — if you attack innocent Americans, we will follow you to the ends of the earth!”
Love and toughness, those were the two themes the Democrats ended their convention with.
“This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and steel in his spine,” Biden said of Obama.
And when it came time for Obama to speak, he made clear that toughness meant facing up to a tough road ahead.
He even dared a restatement of John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask not” line:
“America is not about what can be done for us, but what can be done by us.”
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy,” he continued. “I never have. . . . And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
Obama, like the other speakers, portrayed the Republicans as doomsayers who were selling short the strength and resolve of the American people. “Our problems can be solved,” Obama said. “Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.”
It leads, he hopes, to four more years in the White House.