Conventions as Rorschach Tests
August 29th, 2012

One of the more surprising lessons I’ve learned about electoral politics over the years is that political conventions play very differently depending on the vantage point. In 2004, for instance, I left Boston and New York convinced that the Democrats had put on an incredibly slick, highly effective production while the Republicans looked tired and ineffectual. That’s what I took away from watching them in person. Watching from the vantage point of TV, viewers seemed to think differently. And stepping back even further, to the point of the broader, less-engaged political audience, John Kerry actually lost a point or two in the polls following his convention while Bush ticked upwards.

These things just look different depending on how you’re seeing them.

So for whatever it’s worth, in the room last night, Artur Davis gave a heck of a stemwinder that people loved and Chris Christie executed a really difficult task–giving a rah-rah speech about deficit reduction that subtly tied our collective fiscal unseriousness to the unserious 2008 election. I thought it played very well. But I’m curious to see what the (more important) reaction will be from TV viewers.


  1. Judith August 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    The networks didn’t show Artur Davis, so I wonder if the most important audience for such a speech, low info, undecided voters, will have even heard of it. Ann Romney looked and sounded great, but it sure would have been nice if the Republicans could have figured out how to get Davis on the networks.

    MSNBC, famously, didn’t carry Davis or Cruz or Mia Love. What has surprised me most, however, is that the conservative sites have mostly given the spotlight to Love – who was very good, but I would think that it’s worth pushing back with Artur Davis quite a bit.

  2. REPLY
  3. DNC Day 3 Notes — Jonathan Last Online September 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    […] I said it in Tampa and I’ll say it again: In my own experience, at least, it’s very difficult to the political effectiveness of a convention from the inside. I can tell you how it plays to the room and I can give you some thoughts to what the stagecraft seems to suggest about how the candidates view the race. But as far as understanding how it will actually move public opinion? I don’t have much to say on that score. […]