Sunday | March 16, 2003
CDP convention, Day 2; Dean cleans up
This is long. Be forewarned. For those joining us late, Jerome Armstrong and I are attending the California Democratic Party's annual conference as fully credentialled members of the press.
In all fairness, it wasn't his fault. The sound system sucked and half the convention floor couldn't hear his speech, so there was little in the way of crowd interaction. It was impossible for Kerry to connect. So other than the two dozen supporters the campaign trucked in, there was little audience excitement.
And he made a really bad joke about his prostate -- something about beeing the first president without a prostate, but it would be okay because we already had a vice president without a heart. Ugh. I don't even want to hear the word "prostate".
Oh, and Kerry claimed Democrats needed to be Democrats, not Republican Lite. This would prove a popular phrase, the irony lost on those senators busy being "Republican-Lite" the past two years (Edwards being the other).
Kerry did look good, however. He seemed "presidential". He had good zingers and applause lines sprinkled throughout his speech. But ultimately, it was a flop. He was supposed to occupy a position of honor at the convention, but instead got screwed by factors out of his control.
He kept the crowd engaged perhaps the first half of the speech. In addition to some good one-liners ("If you're going to pull down patriots like Max Cleland over homeland security, the least you can do is improve homeland security"), Edwards made an impassioned and very effective defense of his trial advocacy -- daring Bush to make a campaign issue of it. I pictured Edwards running campaign ads featuring the many families Edwards has helped. Could be effective.
But then Edwards spoke in support of the Iraq war and all hell broke loose. The entire convention hall resonated in boos, the crowd chanting "no war! No war!" It was an amazing sight, and Edwards seemed a bit taken aback. Jerome thought it looked like '68. Edwards recovered with a line about Ashcroft, but the damage was done. The 20 or so brave souls waving Edwards signs were suddenly radioactive.
After a string of California officials, including the detested Davis, Boxer and Pelosi (the latter two my heroes), it was Dean's turn.
By now, the whole program was running about an hour late. It was noon, and restless delegates milled around wondering about lunch. It seemed like a bad start by Dean. But suddenly, easily over half the delegates (and there were roughly 1,600) started waving Dean signs. And from the first note he didn't disappoint.
He started by blasting Bush's invasion, and the crowd was instantly hooked. It was electrifying. The whole convention center hushed, hanging on his every words (only Rep. Maxine Waters had a similar effect). Dean raised the rhetoric gradually, drawing louder applause each time. People were loving it. He uttered Wellstone's line: "I'm here to represent the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party". People went wild. His speech was repeatedly interrupted by chants of "we want Dean!".
But the most amazing part was the finale, with a fiery Dean pounding the podium:
I want my country back!When Dean uttered this last line, the whole place went nuts. Utter pandemonium. It was literally one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.
I reserve the right to change my mind, but as of now, Dean's the one.
One of the benefits of sporting press credentials was hearing the press chatter. I heard "he's too short", "he's too liberal", and "he reminds me of Jesse Jackson -- gives good speeches but there's nothing else there." But at the same time, there were other voices saying "he's different", or "he's got a good chance".
One good bit of news -- the DCCC is raising about $100,000 a day -- which would give them $60 million to spend through election day 2004. They raised almost half that -- $35 million -- in the 2002 cycle. Also, the DCCC plans a new strategy -- targeting Republicans in districts with favorable Dem demographics, rather than GOP incumbents they deem "vulnerable". There's a difference, one which I will examine in further detail in a future post.
Sharpton was the last speaker for the day, and like Dean, he rocked the house. I'm fully convinced that Sharpton is a positive for the Democrats -- proving wrong initial fears he would divide the party.
Indeed Sharpton is the king of the one-liners.
On the costs of occupying Iraq: "We already occupy 50 states, and we haven't come up with the cost of that".But most interesting of all? Sharpton never once said "vote for me" or "I'm running for president". He's in the race to move the debate left, and he's doing a beautiful job of it.
One footnote: Carol Moseley-Braun was sighted aimlessly wandering the convention hall both Friday and Saturday. The only reason people showed up to her press conference is because we were tricked into thinking Pelosi was coming earlier. The poor woman gets zero respect.
We will be back at the convention Sunday to see Kucinich speak. More on that later.Posted March 16, 2003 01:49 AM | Comments (119)