by Carter Wrenn
(visit TalkingAboutPolitics, published by Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn)
It’s not about the conventions – it’s about the stories the conventions are telling.
The Republicans’ story goes like this, Obama hasn’t done the job, let ‘em go. The Democrats’ story goes this way, We are more like you than Mitt Romney.
The question is: Which story is the strongest with Independent voters? And, right now, my guess is it’s the Republican story. Because, more than anything else, Independent voters want the economy fixed. They want out of the ditch. And if Obama can’t fix the economy, it won’t matter much if he is “more like them.”
There’s another difficulty with the Democrats’ story.
I thought, last night, Mrs. Obama made an excellent speech. I get her story. Poor. Growing up in Chicago. African-American. Dad ran a pump in the water plant. Mom held the family together. I have met women like Michelle Obama.
But after the convention, while I was watching Charlie Rose, author David Maraniss made an excellent point of his own: He said Mrs. Obama’s story is a natural American story. But President Obama’s story is “exotic.” He grew up in an unusual family. Without a father. He lived in Indonesia and so on. Unlike Mrs. Obama, voters don’t hear the President’s story and say, I’ve met people like him.
So it’s powerful, Maraniss added, when Michelle Obama says, I respect this man. He’s been a good father.
In a way, Obama’s gift for oratory works against him. He is so erudite and articulate he sounds more like a blue-chip product of the Harvard School of Elocution than a guy you might meet on the street – so President Obama saying to a “middle class” voter, I’m more like you than Mitt Romney, may not ring true because, in a sense, neither candidate fits that bill.
Which party’s story is more powerful? My guess is the Democrats’ story doesn’t work unless they prove Mitt Romney can’t fix the economy – or prove that Barack Obama can.
If we ever had a President who wasn’t “middle class” it was Franklin Roosevelt. And he was elected four times. Voters didn’t care if he was “like them.” They cared about whether he could defeat the Nazis.
The Democrats are betting in the end they can make the election about empathy. But, right now, it looks like the question this election is: Can you get us out of this ditch?