The first night of the Democratic Convention signaled the messages the incumbent administration will rely on. We are better off than we were four years ago. We need an economy that works for all of us so we can all pursue the American dream. America is a diverse, inclusive country. If nothing else, you like us.
And the campaign showed they could stay on message, with a keynote by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and a closing act by First Lady Michelle Obama that meshed perfectly in an upbeat, genuine and (dare one say) hopeful evening of addresses.
Unlike the RNC's opening night in which Ann Romney and Chris Christie seemed to be working a good cop / bad cop routine, the DNC's kick-off spoke with one voice, as clear and accessible as the one font the Obama campaign has diligently stuck to in all its marketing. That discipline was a key to winning four years ago, and was on display once again.
The convention looks like the America the Obama team describes: diverse, cross-generational, truly a nation inside the hall. And the crowd was ready to cheer for a beloved First Lady who delivered the most passionate and successful speech of the night. Castro may have been keynote, but Michelle was the headliner.
The crowd was also ready to boo Mitt Romney as was seen in a moment of a video tribute to Ted Kennedy that showed clips of a Kennedy-Romney debate. But the Convention didn't give much opportunity to jeer. The main speakers stayed positive -- describing progress made and progress promised, their own stories and the American story. The biggest criticisms of Romney struck obliquely: a comment celebrating that success isn't how much you make; a plea to leave open the door of opportunity for those behind you. Attacks by contrast, not by confrontation.
The campaign seems committed to looking at the bright side, maybe a strong strategy for an incumbent administration with a mixed record and struggling economy. Fortunately for the Obama-Biden team, they have a cast that looks like the bright side. Youthful Castro (and his twin) presented a different American future than their parallel in Chris Christie. Michelle Obama didn't need to reassure us she loves us, as Anne Romney did; people just believed it.
But it will take more than likability and lovability to prove re-electability. Whether Americans believe we're better off than we were four years ago may be the question this campaign hinges on and the case the Obama team is unapologetically making. They aren't ducking. They aren't blaming. They are recalling where they started and pointing out how far they've come.
Will Americans agree? Even if they don't agree with their wallets, as they hear Michelle's story, see her authenticity and feel her compassion, they may find themselves more likely to agree with their hearts.