[Guardian Unlimited, U.K.]

 

 

Le Figaro, France

'Sixty Seven Days': the Obama 'System' for Beating McCain

 

"Long divided between Obamistas and Clintonites, the Pepsi Center arena in Denver definitively shook Wednesday night, in one of those theatrical political coups the Americans are so fond of. … Barack Obama leaves the convention in Denver with the keys to the Democratic Party. He has 67 days to convince Americans to give him the keys to the country."

 

By Philippe Gélie

                            

 

Translated By Sandrine Ageorges

 

August 28, 2008

 

France - French - Original Article (French)

Standing alone Thursday evening under 450 spotlights at a giant stadium in Denver, speaking from a platform set up in the middle of the crowd, before a backdrop of Greek columns meant to enhance his image as a statesman, Barack Obama made American history: he officially became the first Black candidate of a major party for the presidency of the United-States.

 

On top of the confetti and fireworks that closed out a grandiose Democratic convention, the symbolism abounded. On this day that marked the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech ("I have a dream"), never far away was the shadow of assassinated President John Fitzgerald Kennedy - he who had also chosen a football stadium to accept his nomination on July 15, 1960: "We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier - the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats."

 

JOHN KENNEDY ACCEPTS DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION, JULY 15, 1960

 

Often compared to the youngest American president for his oratorical talent, from him Barack Obama has drawn part of his inspiration, as well as from Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. His nomination speech, in front of some 80.000 people, was the biggest challenge of his candidacy to date: "I want to make the choice between John McCain and myself as clear as possible," he declared. "And I hope that this convention will have contributed to an understanding of who I am."

 

[Editor's Note: This quote could not be confirmed from the speech transcript].

 

The four days of celebration and political struggle have crowned Obama as sole leader, now undisputed, of the Democratic party. This was prerequisite for being able to launch him, with the best possible chance, into the final lap in the race for the White House. Long divided between Obamistas and Clintonites, the Pepsi Center arena in Denver definitively shook Wednesday night, in one of those theatrical political coups the Americans are so fond of. The required 50-state vote by the delegates was in its 37th stage and the Illinois senator was ahead of his colleague from New York by 1549.5 votes against 341.5. It was then that Hillary Clinton stepped in to bring the vote to an end: "I ask that Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation." As a result, the euphoria of unity recovered. Or at least a possible defeat was turned into a triumph.

 

BARACK OBAMA ACCEPTS DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION, AUG. 28, 2008

 

THE CRUCIAL CHALLENGE OF PARTICIPATION

 

Right in stride, Bill Clinton, with his mastery, delivered the most valuable support that the young Democratic candidate could have hoped for. On top of his authority as a former occupant of the Oval Office, he declared: "Barack Obama is ready to be the next President of the United-States." This is one of the points that Americans still need to be convinced of. "Sixteen years ago," underlined Clinton, "the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar? … Barack Obama is on the right side of history. His life is a 21st Century incarnation of the American Dream." The former president brushed aside McCain with a: "Thanks, but no thanks" and described a future that looked very similar to his eight-year mandate: Barack Obama "will choose diplomacy first and military force as a last resort. … people the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

 

BILL CLINTON ENDORSES OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT, AUGUST 27, 2008

 

 

That was all that needed to be said, and preferably by no one else. That is why the Denver convention marked a critical stage, and an arguably successful one, in the run-up to the November 4 ballot. Experts interviewed by the National Journal were in agreement in predicting that there would be a 4 to 9 points bump in the polls for Obama. This type of jump isn't necessarily long-lasting, especially since the timing isn't conducive to the Democratic Party: his rival John McCain will seek to cut the grass from under his feet on Friday by announcing the name of his running mate, and the Republicans hold the spotlight next week with their own convention. But Obama's speech on Thursday night may do much to put him back in the lead. The timing was deemed crucial by all political analysts, even within the candidate's own entourage. He wrote the speech himself, cloistered in a Chicago hotel room last week.

 

Obama has already successfully risen to several challenges, both in terms of his message and the organization of his campaign. But what remains is to win the challenge of substance. "People want to know what he will do to help middle-class families with their day-to-day lives if he's elected;" underlines Mark Mellman, former strategist for John Kerry in 2004. Joe Biden, the new Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, began to speak frankly in service of the cause, with accents that are more populist than concrete.

 

It's now up to the Democratic tandem to find the right tone to convince Americans that they have credible answers to the challenges of the moment, on growth and employment, the cost of energy, competition with China, and international and security issues. "I am not aiming for the heights of rhetoric," warned Obama, who seems to have understood this. "I am especially concerned about explaining how I intend to help middle class families in their everyday lives."

 

[Editor's Note: Quote is translated - could not be confirmed with the text of Obama's speech].

 

The discreet but frighteningly effective David Plouffe, campaign manager for the candidate, summed up the four short-term goals of the nomination speech, so as to close out the convention with success: "Explain where he comes from, who he is fighting for, the meaning of his promise of change and emphasize the contrast with John McCain."

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In the longer term, his system for victory has two-prongs: to convince the undecided and boost participation. "We are trying to achieve historic levels of participation, not just high, but historic, with Afro-Americans, Hispanics and those under 40," explains Plouffe. Under these circumstances, he believes he can give battle - and with luck win - in eighteen states, more than twice the number that Democrats were competitive in - in 2004.

 

A 'CHANGE' THAT SOUNDS A BIT HOLLOW

 

On the list, four that were won by Kerry four years ago must remain in the bag for Obama: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Michigan. The fourteen others (Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, etc.) went to George W. Bush, but Democrats hope to have a chance, particularly because of demographic changes that enhance the weight of minorities. This is particularly true in the West, where Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada are considered "winnable," one of the main reasons for the choice of Denver for the Convention. "Most of the disputed states will be determined by a margin of 2 to 4 percent," predicts Plouffe, who is wary of polls, which are often based on panels dating from 2004. "Believe me, if McCain doesn't prevail in Colorado, he will have lost the election."

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To explain the importance of participation, already emphasized by the strategy of Bush and Karl Rove during the last two presidential elections, Plouffe uses the example of Florida: "There are 600,000 African-Americans who were registered to vote in 2004 - but who didn't vote. There were over 900,000 young people registered in the same situation. There is a base of five million Democratic voters. Florida is one of our best chances if we properly execute our plan to bring these people to the polls." Perhaps this isn't very sexy," he adds, "but organization is one of the keys to the election."

 

The other [key] is the hands of the candidate who holds them. His personality, his message and his program will make the difference among the undecided, one way or the other. The Americans are more familiar with John McCain know roughly what to expect from him. Barack Obama generates more enthusiasm, but less is known about him. The enormous fair in Denver is over. Now he needs to refine his message, including where the message of "change" rings a bit hollow. At the same time, he must keep his base mobilized, if only to bring in at least $100 million between now and November 4th, in addition to the $390 million already collected.

 

Barack Obama leaves the convention in Denver with the keys to the Democratic Party. He has 67 days to convince Americans to give him the keys to the country.

 

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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US August 29, 7:08pm]