Even his closest supporters said so. What’s more, most people thought his Republican rival delivered a much better acceptance speech a few days later. It was better delivered, more statesman-like. And as a result the Republicans lost the election.
Yes, you heard right. By now, you have guessed that I am not talking about Barack Obama‘s speech last night. No, I am talking about the only other acceptance speech ever delivered in an outdoor stadium. John F. Kennedy did that in 1960. He wasn’t at his best.
As Theodore H. White observed in his classic book The Making of the President, Kennedy was tired and haggard from the long nomination fight. His voice was high and a bit shrill.
Across the country in Washington, Richard Nixon watched on TV, What he saw pleased him. He could take this young kid.
No problem. Yes, he told his aides, he would accept his rival’s invitation to a series of debates on TV. But by the time the first one began, Nixon was tired and haggard from campaigning and an infected knee. Now, the cameras would show both men in closeup.
Nixon sweated like a pig, looked shifty, nervous, tense. What he said was fine. Those few who heard the debates on radio though he won. But it didn’t matter. Kennedy had won in the court of public opinion. That helped lead to a narrow victory on election day. And the two candidates’ acceptance speeches were totally forgotten.
I told you that story for a reason. Its meaning is that there are still more than two months to go.
Barack Obama’s speech last night was perhaps the best political speech I have ever heard in my life. In fact, I can think of only two others that compare: JFK’s inaugural address, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.
If he wins the presidency on Nov. 4, it will become a classic.
But if he doesn’t, it is likely to be totally forgotten. Today, the Democrats have to feel good. Their convention was everything they could have wished. The setting was beautiful. The so-called “rift” between Obama and the Clintons seemed easily healed, in part it existed largely in the world of cable TV news
Now, it is the Republicans‘ turn.
Then the campaign will really start.
Remember this: Michigan. Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia. The election will be decided in those ten states.
Last time, George Bush won five; John Kerry five.
Obama needs to win seven out of those ten to be sure of the White House. McCain has to win one of the first three: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, or he can‘t win. We’ll be seeing a lot of both men over the next two months. This has already been the longest presidential campaign in history.
And I just can’t wait for it to really start.