Tonight’s the night

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4.00am – Ok, just over 45 minutes later and it’s done. Some initial thoughts:

In short, a very grounded, policy-focused speech, as we’d been led to expect. For the first time Obama really took McCain on this evening, addressing issues that have previously been left to Republicans – foreign policy in particularly, but also abortion and gun control. Tonight Obama showed he could talk tough.

Obama addressed pretty much everything that’s been levelled against him by the GOP so far. In countering the ‘celebrity’ charge we got something a bit different to his standard biography. Obama grounded his story this time much more in the story of his family, his World War II grandfather was prominent for example. He also addressed his perceived lack of experience, his foreign policy judgement. At the same time there was a hearty dose of offence. McCain gaffes and slip ups from throughout the campaign were borught up, including the comment by McCain’s senior economic adviser that the economic slowdown was a mental recession and that America is “a nation of whiners,” something which hasn’t been part of the media narrative for a long time.

 

Near the end there was an attempt to reclaim patriotism as a concept that knows no party lines, and Obama then launched into a pitch for Independents and Republicans. He talked through the big cultural issues that have been drawn on tightly partisan lines in the past – gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage – and reiterated his 2004 promise, that (to paraphrase) “there is no red America and no blue America, there is a United States of America.” It’s going to be harder for McCain to go negative after this evening with Obama suggesting that the candidate who can only tell voters to run away from the other candidate, is a candidate that brings nothing new.

In spite of Obama’s promise to avoid character attacks (‘we can disagree on policy without attacking character’) McCain’s long stay in Washington got a mention as did his famously short temper. Most of all, we got a hint of the inspirational power that has taken Obama all the way to becoming the first African-American to receive the nomination of a major American political party alongside a sense that he is ready to take the fight to McCain. Tonight he laid out his vision for the country in detail and made it clear that he’s tired of McCain’s attempt to define the campaign as a referendum on Obama and that he’s ready to debate the issues. Obama redefined himself in terms of his policies rather than just his biography.

3.12am – And here, to an adoring chorus of 84,000 flag-waving supporters, is the man himself. It’s game time.

2.55am – Senator Dick Durbin’s up. He’s the man who also introduced Barack for the 2004 DNC keynote speech, back when it all began.

2.40am – For those who can’t wait Obama’s prepared remarks are out. I’m going to wait to hear it from the man himself so no comments on it for the time being.

2.25am – And we’re going off schedule for a suprise visit by Joe Biden to explain why the Democrats have moved the convention to Invesco Field – int: it’s to make it ‘more open.’ Oh, and Wolf Blitzer assures me that Elvis is in the building.

In other news, the McCain campaign has kindly told reporters he won’t be leaking the name of his VP pick tonight. Of course, the suggestion that he was going to leak it in the first place came from the McCain campaign and it’s been a pretty sucessful way of getting into the media coverage on what should have been a day of back-to-back Barack discussion.

2.10am – Susan Eisenhower’s just finishing off her speech. Not long to go now. Only Senator Dick Durbin is scheduled to speak between Eisenhower and Obama. Look out too for a video by the director of An Inconvenient Truth who has been following Obama around the country.

1.15am – Well, here we are. After a long absence for a bit of r & r I’m back to liveblog Senator Obama’s historic acceptance speech. So far at the Democratic National Convention we’ve had Michelle’s biography lesson, Hillary’s attempt to instruct her 18 million voters to back Obama, Bill Clinton’s much more convincing attempt (he gave, you know, actual reasons to back Barack) and Joe Biden’s veep acceptance speech in which he basically ignored his prepared remarks.

Tonight the weight of expectation really is on Obama. We’ve seen great speeches from him in the past, but tonight has to be much more than that. Today is the 45th anniversary to the day of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech and the 15,000 Democrat delegates along with nearly 65,000 local ticket holders have all moved from the Pepsi Centre to the Denver Broncos’ Invesco Field for the nomination speech, just to really push home the historic nature of the speech. Perversely, for all the praise his speeches have received in the past, tonight’s can’t be too lofty. The Republicans have been reasonably successful in branding Obama as a celebrity who can give great speeches, but doesn’t understand the real concerns of voters. This evening we can therefore expect less lofty rhetoric, and a greater attempt to address the economic woes of everyday Americans.

Obama’s due up at 3am but in the meantime expect Al Gore, Bill Richardson (who got bumped yesterday for the Obama ‘suprise’ visit) and a host of video tributes to Martin Luther King. That’s not to mention Will.i.am doing his ‘Yes, we can’ song live, and – even as I write – Shania Twain is playing.

You can follow the convention live on CNN if you have cable, or on the internet democrats.org has a great high quality feed.

In the meantime, if you go here you can watch McCain’s latest ad, an attempt to enter today’s media narrative by speaking straight to camera and congratulating Obama on tonight’s speech.

If you go to fivethirtyeight.com, you can take a look at a great polling site which currently gives Obama a 57.5% chance of winning. More importantly, it also analyses the latest Gallup daily tracker which shows the start of the ‘convention bump.’ Obama has opened up a six-point lead and this is based on data collected over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That means that 1/3 of the data came before the convention started and this data doesn’t include reactions to Bill Clinton or Joe Biden yesterday so expect a bigger bump in the next few days. Nate Silver, from fivethirtyeight.com, previously predicted from historical data that there wouldn’t be a bounce until the third day and that the average bounce is six-points. As the polls were tied up nationally going into the convention it appears that Obama has achieved that already – although obviously there is a margin of error.

And lastly, if you keep refreshing drudgereport.com you can see if McCain really will be leaking his veep nominee tonight (but don’t hold your breath on that one – I’m 99% sure he’ll be announcing tomorrow at 11am ET as planned).

 

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