The Corner

Obama’s Oratorical Trap

I have a new story up on how profoundly, how intensely, how overpoweringly boring nearly everything that is said from the podium here at the Democratic convention is. (Who can forget Brian Schweitzer’s inspring, “We’re pursuing coal gasification with carbon sequestration” declaration last night?) The rhetorical deficit has created an enormous appetite for a big show from Barack Obama Thursday night:

But here is Obama’s dilemma. The delegates want a peak rhetorical experience. They want to be dazzled. But undecided voters across the country are dying to hear substance from Obama. They know he can wow a crowd; they want to hear more.

At a private focus group held here in Denver a few days ago, several undecided Colorado voters were asked what advice they would give to Obama at the convention.

“Make me believe there’s substance behind your charismatic rhetoric,” one said.

“I’m glad you have a dream — talk to me about reality,” said another.

“Give me less oratory and show me what you’ve done,” said a third.

You might argue that’s just a few voters, not representative of the electorate as a whole. But it appears Obama has heard the same message from his own research. Speaking to reporters in Illinois this week, he took pains to play down the razzle-dazzle. “I’m not aiming for a lot of high rhetoric,” he said of his upcoming speech. “I’m much more concerned with communicating how I intend to help middle-class families live their lives.”

“People know that I can give the kind of speech that I gave four years ago,” Obama continued. “That’s not the question on voters’ minds. I think they’re much more interested in, what am I going to do to help them in their lives? And so, in that sense, this is going to be a more workmanlike speech.”


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