President Obama takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Sept. 6. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Also outsparkling the president at his convention: His wife Michelle, tougher-than-bullets Gabby Giffords, new kid on the block Julian Castro and new friend Bill Clinton, whose line via video Thursday — yes, the one about all the time he’s spent hoping he’d have had the brass to order that hit on bin Laden — was both effective and uncharacteristic.

Even Mitt Romney’s solid, workmanlike address at last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa had more surprising moments than Obama’s greatest hits reel did.


President Obama is joined on stage by first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha, far right, and Malia after his convention speech. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

The best line of his speech was this one, which followed a passage about “what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.”

“[W]hile I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together,’’ he told America, “I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’ ” (I was also atingle at the mention of the words “climate change,” — remember climate change? — but it was definitely a line spoken to the base rather than to Jane Q. Undecided.)


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 30. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The president’s party still had a more successful week here than the Republicans had in Tampa; every one of the many times Democrats bowed to our military men and women, it reinforced the silence on our troops from the GOP, who maybe didn’t want to bring up that guy whose name rhymes with the president’s.

The Democrats also had more speakers who were plain old more interesting. And the unmistakable message of all those crowd shots of a Tampa convention as diverse as your average Yankee country club was not only in stark contrast to the delegates who showed up here, but that visual mirrored the communitarian, “We’re all in this together” narrative that Democrats think trumps the “We built ours, and you can, too,” Republican mantra.

The lower bar required for Romney to exceed expectations at his convention will still be in place at the first debate, however. There, too, if the Republican nominee manages to avoid placing any $10,000 bets, or muttering that politics “ain’t the beanbag,” he’ll likely be seen as the winner.

And since that’s not a narrative that Team Obama can afford in a race this close, the president had better hope Kerry saved some of what he showed us onstage here in Charlotte for the debate prep in which he’s Romney’s stand-in.


Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the paper’s ‘She the People’ blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.