We have learned in the recent days that Barack Obama is highly competitive, and likes to win at what he plays. Tonight is the biggest challenge of his political life, and, as a supporter, the tension is palpable.
I like that he will be in a smaller venue than the stadium in Denver or the initial one in Charlotte. He needs to speak to us tonight more personally. No columns, or long walks. Tonight, it’s one man in the arena.
What would I like him to say? As an old speech-writer, I can’t resist writing actual riffs. First, I would like him to define the election:
“So this is what this quarrel is all about, and we need to settle it this November. The Republicans have a simple message for America: their way or the highway. Their way on getting rid of Planned Parenthood. Their way on vouchers for Medicare, cuts in student loans, ever more tax cuts for the already privileged.
“My response is simple. We’re not going their way, and the only thing that needs to hit the highway is their selfish politics.
“We’ve got to make sure this election is more about the victory of a ticket or a party. We’ve got to make it the defeat of a philosophy that is willing to hurt the country to extend an ideology. Only then can America move forward.”
Next, he needs to speak with both specificity and emotion about his second-term agenda, a tricky balance. This is the “victory” that he seeks in this election: greater popular support for what he plans to do. He should describe in some detail his plans to further jump-start the economy and address the debt.
After laying out his second-term agenda, Obama needs to answer the toughest question: Why will his second-term be better than his first? This is the key argument for the jury, and I am glad I don’t have to write it. But here’s one possible path:
“As Americans, we did a lot these last four years. The reports of the demise of hope and change were premature. We stopped a possible depression, ended a war, saved one of America’s most important industries, killed our number one enemy and finally gave all Americans access to health care. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re heading there, and we aren’t going back.
“This convention has shown our country the contrasts between what our party’s vision of the future and the other party’s desire to return to the past. But there’s one more thing you need to know. I’ve learned some things as president these past four years. I’ve learned Washington doesn’t work without the power of people, demanding their leaders do the right thing. Sometimes we moved too fast, sometimes we didn’t listen enough and some times I thought we could just work it out behind closed doors. I won’t make those mistakes again.
“Starting tonight, and for the rest of the campaign, I am going to be as specific as I can be about where to take this great country. Because when you go into the voting booth in November, I will be asking for your vote to do some big and important things for America. Then, we’ll do them together.”