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Five Takeaways From The Last Night Of The Democratic Convention

Sep 7, 2012
Originally published on September 7, 2012 11:25 am

If you missed the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., we live blogged it here.

But if you want a quick review, we've compiled five things that struck us about the night:

Times Have Changed, Obama Has Changed, Hope Has Changed: The Obama we saw on Thursday was a more sober and realistic man than the one we saw in 2008, or for that matter than the one we saw in 2004, when he delivered a lyrical ode to American unity.

The Obama we saw today didn't run from the promises of hope and change central to his previous campaign. But he presented a tempered, more serious version of it, one seen through the prism of a man at the tail end of his first term as president. In fact, Obama hardly smiled. He said:

"I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed — and so have I.

"I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the President. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return. I've shared the pain of families who've lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who've lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I've made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. And 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.'

"But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I'm naïve about the magnitude of our challenges.

"I'm hopeful because of you."

This Was An Obama Love Fest: This wasn't a convention for politicians who wanted to talk about their own accomplishments. In that way, it was very different from the Republican National Convention. It was a convention that embraced President Obama and his policies with a great, big bear hug.

Every speaker, every video, every message said the same thing: President Obama is the man for the job.

Biden Embraced His Tempered Role: Vice President Biden was given a less-than-ideal speaking spot in this convention. Normally, the vice president speaks during prime time, on a different day from the president.

Biden gave up his Wednesday spot in favor of former President Bill Clinton. And tonight he spoke in the 9 p.m. hour. [Correction at 11:30 a.m., Sept. 7: Earlier, we mistakenly said the vice president gave up a Thursday speaking slot. It was a Wednesday slot that he ceded to former President Clinton. We've fixed the mistake.]

The speech he gave was restrained. He certainly sprinkled in some of his typical humor. But mostly that came when he talked about Mitt Romney. When he spoke about Obama, he was very serious; he slowed down his cadence and at times, he almost whispered.

That said, as the man closest to the president's decisions, he served as a character witness.

"Bravery," he said, "resides in the heart of Barack Obama."

The Democrats Were Disciplined With Their Message, Except When They Weren't: This convention was preceded by a big whoops, when Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was asked whether Americans were better off than they were four years ago. He said, "No."

But after that the Democrats mostly stayed on message. There was the platform dust-up. But day after day, speaker after speaker, Democrats delivered the same talking points about "building the economy from the middle out and not from the top down." And woman after woman said that under Obama, "being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition."

And, Thursday, Sen. John Kerry delivered the answer Democrats most likely hoped O'Malley had given on Sunday. He said:

"President Obama kept his promises. He promised to end the war in Iraq — and he has — and our heroes have come home. He promised to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly — and he is — and our heroes there are coming home. He promised to focus like a laser on al-Qaeda — and he has — our forces have eliminated more of its leadership in the last three years than in all the eight years that came before. And after more than ten years without justice for thousands of Americans murdered on 9/11, after Mitt Romney said it would be 'naive' to go into Pakistan to pursue the terrorists, it took President Obama, against the advice of many, to give that order to finally rid this earth of Osama bin Laden. Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago."

The Next Big Thing: We're yet to see what the polling repercussions of these back-to-back conventions will be.

But the next big duel will be mano a mano, when Obama and Romney take the stage during the three scheduled debates.

Debates were seen as a weak spot for Romney. But during the GOP primaries, he honed his skills. Still, he spent this week preparing for his debate against Obama.

The first debate is Oct. 3 at the University of Denver. The second is Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The third is Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

The vice presidential debate is Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

Our other "takeaway" posts from both conventions:

-- Wednesday At The Democratic Convention.

-- Tuesday At The Democratic Convention.

-- Thursday At The Republican Convention.

-- Wednesday At The Republican Convention.

-- Tuesday At The Republican Convention

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.