The 2012 Democratic National Convention coincides with the start of the National Football League’s season. And just like for an NFL team, there are some keys to the game that the Democrats must follow to be successful in Charlotte and beyond.
Start With a Good Opening Drive. For many Americans, conventions are a starting point; it will be the first time they really tune into the Presidential race. The GOP got the ball first, but gave a middling effort: polls show that the Romney-Ryan ticket didn’t get a real bounce from the convention. That gives the Obama campaign an opportunity to take the initiative now and put points on the board going into the fall campaign, putting them in the position to look forward and putting the Romney campaign on the defensive.
Exploit Your Opponent’s Weakness. Good teams notice what’s missing and strike like a cobra. Mitt Romney left himself open by not talking enough about his agenda at the convention, so there’s an opening for Democrats to define it for him. So too, Democrats are already seeking to exploit another GOP weakness: diversity. In Charlotte, Democrats "will tout diversity and sell themselves as inclusionary, sensitive to the most marginalized, and hip to the nation’s changing demographics."
Make Positive Short-Yardage Gains. As important as it will be to exploit GOP weaknesses, it will also be important to tout a positive agenda in Charlotte. Voters don’t want to hear about the past (“It was bad to begin with”) or the hypothetical present (“It could have been much worse”), they want to hear how President Obama and the Democrats have already helped lay the groundwork for economic recovery and what the plan looks like moving forward. Most importantly, though, Democrats need to connect with the individual voter – the small business owner, the parents who wonder how they’ll pay for their children’s college now that their salaries have been cut, and the long-term unemployed, to name a few. How will (and have) the Obama administration policies affect them?
Capitalize On Home Field Advantage. Excitement among your loyal fanbase matters. The GOP Convention may not have resulted in a noticeable bounce for the Romney-Ryan ticket, but many of the delegates left the convention feeling more enthusiastic about their party and the election. Obama and the Democrats can use their convention to do the same. Although the president has a tougher road to the White House than he did four years ago, getting die-hard supporters revved up for three days in Charlotte could make that road a little easier to travel in the weeks ahead.
Play For Four Quarters. With the polls showing a close race, it increasingly looks like this race will be won by turning out your base, winning small (but significant) portions of your opponent’s base, and appealing to a small group of undecided voters. There are still two long months to go until election day, and the president and Democrats need to make that clear to supporters. Get them excited, but also prepare them for the hard slog. Standing in an arena full of applause and confetti in early September won’t matter much if volunteers don’t want to brave bad weather to get out the vote in early November.
This post originally appeared on the Truman National Security Project's Truman Doctrine blog.