A Tale of Two Conventions

One thing that struck me last night was how starkly different the Republican Convention has been from the Democratic Convention. Both parties, as has been the tradition of late, overly scripted the events to present their best face to the voting public. Compare, however, the prime time (9-11 EST) speakers chosen by the two sides:

Dems: Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton
Reps: John McCain, Rudi Giuliani

Certainly, some huge star power all around. But McCain and Giuliani are certainly better “gets” in the sense that they’re not particularly polarizing. Many people love Gore, Carter, and the Clintons but all also alienate–passionately–a large segment of potential voters. McCain is a media darling and, given that he was Kerry’s first choice for veep, rather devastating. Giuliani became a beloved figure after 9/11 and certainly brought huge gravitas.

Dems: Howard Dean, Ron Reagan, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Barack Obama
Reps: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara and Jenna Bush, Laura Bush

Ron Reagan was a good “get” because of who his dad was and he’s a decent, sympathetic figure. And Obama was a geniune star, living up to the hype. But Schwarzenegger is an international megastar who delivered a speech every bit as good as Obama’s, if not better. The Bush Twins were something of a disaster, admittedly, but they’re 22-year-olds. And, as I noted last night, the Laura vs. Tuhraysuh comparison is a huge advantage in the Heartland.

Dems: Al Sharpton, Cate Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards
Reps: Zell Miller, Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney

Sharpton is a fun speaker but he hurts the Democrats among undecideds. The Edwardses were all superb, however–the family geniunely likeable and the candidate comes across as a decent fellow, trial lawyer or no. Zell is a huge “get” for the Republicans, though. The Cheneys were an asset in 2000 and geniunely beloved on the part of much of the base; not so much with the swing voters.

Dems: Max Cleland, John Kerry
Reps: George Pataki, George W. Bush

To be determined, I suppose. Cleland is an impressive figure and Kerry gave the speech of his life, corny salute or no. He may rue having staked it all on Vietnam, though. Pataki is a dull speaker from a state that Bush has no prayer of carrying, so he’s a rather odd choice. I expect Bush to give a solid speech. He’ll need to.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Howard Lindos says:

    I have been waiting to see how this
    is affecting to big MO… Hard to say.
    The convention is going well and may help
    in shore up NC, VA, AR, MO, but I am not
    sure about WI, IA, and MN… speaking as a
    midwestern guy, the convention hasn’t been
    as positive as many of us would like… too
    much red meat for midwestern tastes. I think
    they should have gone positive after two plus
    weeks of Swift Boats…

    I would predict basically zero bump. Not any
    fault of the convention really, but it will
    coincide with a natural post-SBVFT bounce back.
    My fear is the natural cycle may mean that Bush
    drops a point or two after a few weeks of
    unusually helpful coverage.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Excellent analysis, Mr. Joyner! The Democrats are rallying the base. The Republicans are going for the win.

  3. Attila Girl says:

    I’m going to say there will be a significant–and possibly huge–bump from this convention.