At the 1980 Democratic National Convention, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) plunged his final knife in the back of the Jimmy Carter campaign, then he closed his speech with this call to arms for the left: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Contrast that to the current race. For many Democrats, the hope is dead and dream has evaporated. While Mitt Romney strives to broaden his appeal and make himself a comfortable alternative for the country President Obama has essentially given up trying to convince the country he’s done a good job. His case is now simply that Romney-Ryan is a worse ticket and will wreck the country. It would be a telling argument for any incumbent, but for the Obama-agog party of 2008 it has been a long road to cynicism, anger, negativity and disdain for policy.

Roger Cohen of the irretrievably liberal New York Times opinion section bemoans:

Nixon, like Obama, was a loner, but he had Kissinger generating ideas. Carter had Brzezinski. Reagan had Shultz. The first Bush had Baker. Obama has Tom Donilon as national security adviser. Donilon is an affable pro who has been described as a one-client lawyer. It is clear who the client is.

Then there is Hillary Clinton, a superb secretary of state. But for various reasons (her future is very much ahead of her), she has generally acquiesced to the White House being the locus of major foreign-policy decisions (salvaging things where necessary, as in Pakistan.)

The Obama inner circle remains a group of tough political tacticians: David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett. The White House national security team does not boast a single name of strategic stature. Anyone outside Washington would be hard pressed to name one.

Conservatives roll their eyes. You’re only now discovering Obama without platitudes is simply Daley Chicago politics? You’ve only now discovered he is contemptuous of a strong American presence in the world?

Well, better late than never, I suppose. The excuse dyed-in-the-wool Democrats will give for still sticking with Obama is that Romney is worse, if not evil. The endless stream of invectives and distortions from the Obama camp are aimed at least in part in shoring up a base that has lost its idol and lacks policy accomplishments to trumpet. (Democrats can’t very well mention Obamacare.)

Republicans at this convention feel little need to make the case against Obama. They see the wrong-track numbers and know the country doesn’t think he has handled the economy well. They therefore will focus on sprucing up Romney. Democrats aren’t going to bother defending Obama. His advisors see the same polls and have the same focus group findings telling them to quit telling voters things are getting better (because voters don’t think they are). At least on this they can “agree,”

The Romney team hopes to defang the monstrous image the Democrats have painted of the candidate, leaving the choice between a failed, increasingly irritated president and a center-right businessman/governor with a knack for deal-making. Romney doesn’t need the country to love him, just not to fear him. For without the fright show, what has Obama got? Not even the New York Times editorial page.