CHARLOTTE — The first night of the Democratic National Convention is history.
As always, we watched the proceedings with an eye to who soared and who stubbed their toe. Our picks for winners and losers are below. Have some of your own? The comments section awaits!
* Julian Castro: The mayor of San Antonio was one of the least known keynote speakers in modern memory but his performance on Tuesday night showed why the Obama campaign placed a big bet on his ability. Castro’s story — and his reverence for his mom — was touching and heartfelt. His attacks on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney were effective but not mean-spirited or overly partisan. The political road forward is somewhat unclear for Castro — Texas remains a solidly Republican state — but he very clearly established himself as a national rising star with his speech tonight. Watch the video.
* Deval Patrick: Patrick was overlooked by many people — the Fix included — who were scanning the night’s speaker to see who might shine on the first night of the convention. But, the Massachusetts governor did shine with an address that will almost certainly stoke some chatter about whether he should be in the mix for 2016.
* Ted Strickland: The former Ohio governor didn’t throw red meat to the crowd. He wore a red meat suit. It was, without question, the most rankly partisan speech of either convention but man oh man was it effective. Strickland’s address was larded with quotable lines that will get play on the morning shows and cable television tomorrow; “If Mitt Romney was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves,” Strickland said to raucous applause from the crowd. Make no mistake: There will be some folks in the Democratic strategist community who will wonder after tonight’s speech why they didn’t choose Strickland to be Democratic National Committee chairman.
* 2nd half of Michelle Obama’s speech: The First Lady started quite slowly — more on that below. But, by the time 10:45 p.m. (or so) rolled around, Michelle Obama was hitting her rhetorical stride — with a testimonial about the impact (or lack thereof) that the presidency has had on her husband. “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are,” Obama said in her best line of the speech. Michelle Obama is already a beloved figure among Democrats and many independents and the way she finished her speech will do nothing to lessen those feelings. Watch the video.
* Signage: The Democratic convention-planners deserve credit. When Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley got to the podium, the crowd was immediately peppered with “Forward” and “Not Back” signs. Nice advance work.
* Julian Castro’s daughter: That is one cute kid. Seriously.
* Kathleen Sebelius: Remember when the former Kansas governor was talked about as a potential vice presidential pick? Her speech at the convention was remarkably flat and she rushed through both her planned applause lines and “big” finish. Just not very good.
* Martin O’Malley: O’Malley came into his speech tonight with high expectations. He has made little secret of his interest in higher office and that he was given a 10 pm speaking slot suggests that the convention planners thought he would deliver. Those expectations turned out to be too high. O’Malley’s enthusiasm and passion came across as manufactured not organic and the crowd seemed ready to love him but wound up just sort of liking him. Watch the video.
* The 1st half of Michelle Obama’s speech: The First Lady started quite slowly with the crowd seemingly waiting to explode but never really being given the chance to do so. The first part of her speech also felt like somewhat warmed-over rhetoric from the 2008 campaign. But, as we noted above, she did warm to the task and, in truth, how she finished almost certainly matters more than how she started. Watch the video.
* Billionaires: The super-wealthy came in for a regular bashing from the Democratic podium on Tuesday night. Of course, for all of the rhetorical hits they took, billionaires are still billionaires. So they have that going for them.