By Bob Cusack - 09/07/12 03:42 AM EDT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Democratic convention in Charlotte wasn’t flawless, but it achieved its mission of boosting President Obama’s chances of winning a second term.
The following is a rundown of the winners and losers:
President Obama. His speech on Thursday night did the job. It wasn't his best, but it toed the line of defending his record and attacking Mitt Romney. The president will probably get a bigger post-convention bounce than the former Massachusetts governor — however, that is no sure thing, especially if a bad jobs report emerges on Friday.
Michelle Obama. Her speech on Tuesday night was a game changer for the Democratic convention. As the president’s advisers were clumsily trying to handle the question of “Were you better off than you were four years ago?,” the first lady was putting the finishing touches on arguably the best speech of both conventions. The delivery of the address was first-rate, making the case that her husband cares deeply about people, especially the middle class. She didn’t mention Romney by name, but she didn’t have to: the contrast she sought to highlight was very apparent.
Bill Clinton. Former President Clinton delivered a substantive and at times fiery defense of Obama Wednesday night. It was too long, clocking in at 48 minutes, 15 minutes more than his heavily criticized speech at the 1988 convention. But it was vintage Clinton, who dove deep into a wide variety of policy matters. The delegates ate it up, and it continued the momentum that Michelle Obama generated the night before.
Hillary Clinton. The secretary of State missed her first convention since 1968, and Democratic delegates missed her. There is more chatter of her running for president again in 2016, and that speculation will only intensify over the next year. The former first lady, who will turn 69 in 2016, has announced she will not serve in a possible second Obama term. And whether Obama wins or loses, her every move will be watched closely for any clues on her aspirations. She has said she won’t run for president again, but history is filled with people who change their minds on seeking the nation’s highest office — including Obama.
Vice President Biden. The vice president accomplished a lot in his speech. He ripped Romney, spoke highly of Obama's character and became emotional when discussing the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan. Biden, who will turn 70 this fall, hasn't ruled out a White House run in 2016. This speech served him well.
Julian Castro. The San Antonio mayor’s address was overshadowed by the first lady’s, but his political stock skyrocketed this week. His speech used humor to carve up Romney’s record, and it revved up the crowd. The Latino politician showed he is ready for the national stage.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Democratic National Committee chairwoman, who was an outspoken backer of Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, had a good week. She delivered a personal speech about her battle with breast cancer while making the case for a second term for Obama. Though the Florida lawmaker, like other Democrats, struggled to explain why the “God” reference was initially removed from the party’s platform, she ultimately will be judged on whether Obama wins. This election will likely be close, but the president remains a slight favorite.
Federal and local law enforcement. There were many government agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Administration, that worked to keep delegates safe in both Tampa and Charlotte. There were no major incidents and activists peacefully conducted protests.
Gabrielle Giffords. Her surprise appearance, escorted onto the stage by Wasserman Schultz, drew tears from many in the crowd. It’s uncertain what her future in politics is, but it is clear she has made a miraculous recovery since surviving an assassination attempt in 2011.
The Weather Channel. Political operatives on both sides of the aisle were glued to weather forecasts during their respective conventions. Tropical Storm-turned-Hurricane Isaac threatened to disrupt the Republican convention, forcing the cancellation of the first day's speeches. A week of rain and forecast of more rain made the Democratic convention pivot. Obama delivered his speech in the Time Warner Cable Arena instead of at Bank of America Stadium.
Martin O’Malley. With one word, the Maryland governor got the Democratic convention off to a rocky start. After O’Malley indicated people aren’t better off than they were four years ago, the GOP pounced and Democrats were put on the defensive. O’Malley quickly backtracked, but the damage was done. Fortunately for O’Malley, who is eyeing a 2016 White House run, the controversy dissipated.
Carolina hotel industry. Convention organizers put reporters in some awful hotels in both North and South Carolina. Not surprisingly, the quality of those hotels, which allegedly included bed bugs, rats and prostitutes, attracted headlines. Fair or not, the hotel industry’s reputation around Charlotte took a hit. Tourism officials blamed the Dems.
Cory Booker and Antonio Villaraigosa. The inexplicable omission of "God" in the Democratic platform was a major distraction earlier in the week. Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J., and a co-chairman of the platform committee, took the heat on TV. Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles and chairman of the Democratic convention, mismanaged the vote to amend the platform to include the word God and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Villaraigosa recovered well, noting Obama got involved and ordered the changes. But the very public fumble will be remembered for quite some time.
Four-day conventions. Rest in Peace. Conventions will be three days or less in 2016. The public and both parties are tired of the scripted, week-long pageantry. Conventions are important for both presidential nominees and rising stars — remember Obama's speech in 2004 — but the shortened format worked this year.