On the heels of the RNC, comes the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. One of the goals of the RNC last week was to make Mitt Romney seem more human and more likable. They may have achieved more with this CBS News video; it is well produced and highlights the Romney family, throughout their six years of campaigning. Unfortunately the video was not aired during the one hour of prime time coverage, pre-empted by "Eastwooding."
Now at the DNC, Democrats have the opportunity to paint their own picture of Mitt Romney. I do not expect the tone of the convention to be as personally critical as the RNC was of Obama. I think the critiques of Romney will be slightly more veiled and should, ideally for Democrats, be made in a way that highlight the accomplishments of the Obama administration in great detail.
Conventions not only serve to rile up the base but as a re-introduction of the candidate to independent and undecided voters. My feeling is that the DNC will need to paint a picture of the administration while simultaneously shaping the image they want people to see of Romney. It could be an outright criticism of Paul Ryan's budget or how Romney is "out of touch," but I think that would be a mistake. The images will have to be shaped in a very specific way, highlighting proposed policies and accomplishments. If the latter path is chosen, I believe it will be done through appealing to the following groups of voters:
1. Soldiers, military families, and supporters.
Obama, and likely other speakers, will surely speak about Afghanistan, which Romney and Ryan avoided during the RNC. There has to be some acknowledgement of the war, the lives lost, and the continued sacrifices made by military families. The war will also need to be put in a political and economical context, highlighting how Romney feels about armed conflict, his defense spending proposals, and most importantly, a clear articulation of what Obama plans on doing in Afghanistan in 2014. The DNC will also have to highlight the end of combat operations in Iraq.
2. Senior Citizens.
Health care reform was Obama's baby during the past four years, often behaving like a petulant child. Vice President Biden may be the president's most important face in appealing to senior citizen voters, and their caregivers, facing the challenges of illness and Medicare. On September 2, Biden coined the phrase "vouchercare" to describe the Romney/Ryan alternative to Medicare. That is their ticket to painting Romney with the "out of touch" brush and making the GOP look like an insensitive party to the needs of older Americans.
3. Low and middle income voters.
As the crowd at the RNC had some of the biggest cheers for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Democrats should take note to appeal to voters belonging to labor unions and blue collar voters in general: They are the workforce that make this country run and should be treated as such. Biden can help, but the real task is outlining specific tax policies affecting middle class workers. Real numbers will need to be shown and there needs to be the undertone that Professor Obama is better than CEO Romney. Obama has to show that running this country like a company will result in workers losing their jobs and unemployment benefits, like a CEO would cut overhead and 'unnecessary' costs.
Ann and Mitt Romney did what they could to appeal to women and may have gained some ground by showing the 'family man' side of Mitt and trotting out female governors like Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez. Gone were the cringe-worthy images of Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, and Michele Bachmann. However, the DNC will need to hit home the specific health care initiatives Obamacare has achieved for women. The GOP's proposed policies and general perceived attitudes towards women will most likely be played up. Most importantly, I think Romney will need to be vilified with the issue of equal pay.
Attacking Romney personally, as Obama was attacked during the RNC, will likely not be the best approach. The attack will seem harsh and it won't help the administration give the right answer to the question which they seem to be repeatedly be caught flat footed on: Are we better off than we were four years ago?
The DNC will have to show how these our groups of voters are better off now and how they will continue to improve only if Obama is re-elected.