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The Week In Politics: Democrats Fire Up For Obama, Galvanize Clinton As Elder Statesman


President Obama made his case for a second term last night in Charlotte. It capped two weeks of political madness. Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer joins Duncan McFadyen to talk about the week in politics.

MCFADYEN: So, you were in the hall last night---all last week, I believe. What did you think of the president’s speech and the crowd’s reaction to it?

BITZER: It was a much more politically mature speech. It was a two-part speech. The first part seemed to be much like a state of the union address. It was kind of in the tone of a Bill Clinton-esque approach, acknowledging that government can’t do everything but certainly government needs to be involved and encouraging certain areas. The second part, the back part, is where I thought Obama really reached his rhetorical style---very  passionate, firing up the base. Those folks in the hall were ready to do anything for him. And so, it was a fine speech, I don’t think it was the speech of the week, though.

MCFADYEN: And we’ll get to that in just a minute. One of the other speakers that led up to Mr. Obama’s speech last night who wasn’t seen on the network coverage was former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm. She really fired up the crowd with a line about Mitt Romney and the auto industry, the main industry in her home state. Let’s listen to what she said.

FMR. MICH. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees. He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars? Well, in Romney's world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft.

MCFADYEN: Professor Bitzer what do you make of those comments; what was the reaction in the hall?

BITZER: It was really one of those key lines along with Vice President Biden’s line that everyone knew was coming, “Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” It really appealed to the economic populism that the Democrats were really in full love with. Elizabeth Warren did the same thing Wednesday night. The delegates were really fired up, and, as the chant goes, “ready to go.”

MCFADYEN: And they’re now off to their home states. Many of them are going to be organizing their communities to campaign for President Obama. But someone who didn’t campaign this week was Governor Mitt Romney. He took the week off and prepared for next month’s debates in Vermont. But President Obama notably campaigned during last week’s RNC. What do you think this says about the state of the campaign?

BITZER: I think it’s going to be a knock-down, drag out fight. Even though Mitt Romney was off the campaign trail, his surrogates were out in full force. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was in the state at East Carolina University. They had surrogates all over the place in Charlotte. This is going to be a very tough battle, and they recognize on both sides that they can’t stay off the campaign trail anymore.

MCFADYEN: What did you make of the Republicans’ response to the DNC?

BITZER: I think it was the typical approach. They were certainly hammering things that came up that were bumps in the road: the changes to the party platform, the move of [President Obama’s speech] to Time Warner Cable Arena. But this just shows the aggressiveness of this campaign that we’re going to see for the next 60 days.

MCFADYEN: We’re off to a running start now with both conventions finished. So we’ve got just about a minute left, last question: you alluded to it earlier, who had the best speech this week, in your opinion?

BITZER: It had to be Bill Clinton. He has now become the elder statesman of the Democratic Party. It was so fascinating to watch he and President Obama embrace at the end [of Clinton’s speech]. But it was still Bill Clinton’s party and boy, he had that fired up base, and was able to pull a classic Clinton: give it to them with deep policy wonkyness. But it was a Clintonesque style there Wednesday night. I think he took the show definitely.

MCFADYEN: He also had the longest speech of the convention at nearly 50 minutes---almost 20 minutes longer than the president.

BITZER: Imagine that, Bill Clinton with a long speech. But the folks in the hall were ready for it.

MCFADYEN: Many people have been tossing around the term “elder statesman” since that speech, but it’s just now sinking in to me…Bill Clinton is now the elder statesman of the Democratic Party.