Obama Team Sees Convention as Paving Way to Victory

Obama Team Sees Convention as Paving Way to Victory

By Alexis Simendinger - September 4, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Obama and his campaign team believe a successful Democratic National Convention can help plow a path to victory in November. Having experienced the same phenomenon in Denver four years ago, they hope to bottle convention magic one more time.

Plenty of political scientists argue that public reaction to presidential nominating conventions is actually a poor predictor of the eventual winner -- even when polls edge higher for a nominee after a convention’s stirring addresses fade from memory.

In fact, the Gallup Organization suggests the state of a presidential race going into the conventions -- not the state of the contest coming out of them -- says more about who is likely to win.

Since 1952, the leader heading into the quadrennial gatherings has gone on to win the presidency in 12 of 15 elections, Gallup found.

In a neck-and-neck contest such as the one between Obama and Mitt Romney, then, the Democrats’ show in Charlotte could tilt momentum enough to realize a solid lead, add to it with the October presidential debates, and drive home messaging with TV advertising and through voter mobilization efforts in key battleground states.

Romney sustained no real bounce out of his Tampa convention and nominating speech, at least as of Monday, Gallup reported. “The public rated Mitt Romney’s speech the least positively of presidential nomination acceptance speeches Gallup has measured since 1996,” the organization said.

Democrats in Charlotte are talking about openings along at least six key fronts:

1) Bounce and Hold: The president’s team wants to attract a hefty audience for speeches delivered by Obama, Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, and a decidedly diverse roster of politicians and “American heroes” who can explain the Democratic Party’s rationale for four more years. They want to win public attention as measured by TV ratings and poll results by next week. With viewership down for the GOP convention compared with 2008 and no evident polling bounce for Romney nationwide, Democrats in Charlotte say they’re hopeful.

2) Stoke Love (and Fear): Among African-Americans, Latinos, women and young people, Obama hopes to rekindle passion among voters who elected him president in 2008 -- and if he can’t quite pull that off, at least encourage voters to fear the GOP agenda outlined by Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Where enthusiasm for Democrats has waned, the president’s campaign team believes Obama can plug holes with doubts and fears about his opponent. Expect the convention program in Charlotte to be more explicit about what a President Romney would supposedly do in the next four years than what Obama promises to accomplish in a second term.

3) Speak to Independent Voters: Support for the Democratic Party among independent voters has fallen 12 points from where it was at this time in 2008. Obama wants to use his convention to woo enough of the tiny tribe of squishy, fence-sitting persuadable voters to help him defeat Romney in November. “We try to look at this through the eyes of people making choices,” senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod explained when discussing the conventions Friday.

4) Sketch an Optimistic Agenda: After the Tampa assaults on Obama pegged to tax policy, the economy, and his “you didn’t build that” comment this summer, the president’s convention will turn the tables with an agenda organized around the middle class. Expect the president to discuss Medicare, student loans, consumer protections, health care for women, and a better defined Democratic agenda for a second term. Because Romney did not discuss Afghanistan in Tampa, Obama will make as much as he can about his record as commander-in-chief and head of state. “By the end of next week, the American people will see the road map to restore the middle class,” said campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

5) Reassure Voters about Washington: Americans indicate they continue to doubt whether Obama or Romney can fix what’s broken in Washington to achieve legislative changes that will improve their lives now and in the future. The president, who has spent a year campaigning against Congress and Republicans, has argued in interviews that the results of the November elections will “break the fever” and pave the way for tough decisions and bipartisanship. Democrats want their three-day convention to appear more optimistic, harmonious and keyed to middle-class worries when it comes to breaking the gridlock in the nation’s capital.

6) Gain Traction in the Battleground “South”: As much as Democrats have sought to use the Charlotte convention as a way to replicate the narrow 2008 Obama victory in North Carolina, appealing to neighboring Virginia may be even more important to the party’s Electoral College strategy. “Everyone in the South is part of a convention like this, so there’s also a ripple effect to being in North Carolina,” said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. “We border Virginia, and some of the other states around us that could be competitive in this race, and I think particularly North Carolina and Virginia are going to be ones to watch in this election.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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