Tuned In

The Hillary Speech

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A couple quick from-vacation thoughts to kick off discussion:

I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton’s endorsement speech helps Barack Obama politically or not. But simply from a standpoint of televisual interest, it’s funny that people have talked about this speech as a dread moment of great risk for Obama.

Why? Modern conventions are the most reliably boring events on TV. Clinton’s speech introduced actual drama and suspense for once—even if the suspense was entirely trumped up by a media obsessed with imagining Clintonian intrigues. What would she say? How would she say it? Whose side would she be on? (Also, she didn’t release the speech well in advance, putting us in the rare situation of watching a political speech and not already knowing what the speaker was going to say.) This ginned up tremendous interest, while almost guaranteeing—because of expectations set by the pre-speech chatter—that if she did anything short of take superdelegates hostage, it would be viewed as a cathartic gesture of unity.

In other words, she made Tuesday night appointment viewing. I don’t know if that will move a single vote, but that’s not exactly a bad thing for a campaign. I’ve watched a lot of Hillary speeches over the campaign, but I don’t remember one this fiery, or this fierily received—especially the Harriet Tubman crescendo, which subtly alluded to the interconnection of women and African American’s issues historically. (There was an impressive bit of visual stage management too, with floor whips handing out “Hillary!” signs for the beginning of the speech, then replacing them with blue unity signs halfway through. Update: Another notable visual—notable by its absence—was the almost total lack of pictures of Bill or of Hillary as First Lady in her intro video, though her primary campaign had treated her years as the President’s wife as part of her qualifications.)

Again, I don’t know how it plays in the polls. Maybe it wins Obama votes. Maybe she overshadows him. But it beats having people change the channel.

(The usual disclosure: I’m an Obama voter. Robo-James, I’m pretty sure, is still solid for Ron Paul.)

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