Will convention 'reset' bring Democratic voters to polls?

Story highlights

  • Roland Martin says convention was therapeutic for a disillusioned Democratic Party
  • He says speakers from Cory Booker to Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton energized the crowd
  • He says event was crucial reset for Democrats, invoked core values, set aggressive tone
  • Martin: GOP's dislike for Obama will get out their vote; Dems base must do same for Obama

When thousands of Democrats descended on Charlotte the weekend of Labor Day, the spirit of the party faithful could very well be summed up by the title of a wonderful song by Joe Sample and Lalah Hathaway, "When Your Life Was Low."

Political conventions really are highly orchestrated affairs where nothing is left to chance (well, except when your party platform omits God and doesn't name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel). But for Democrats, it served more as three days of therapy in North Carolina for a party disillusioned by the heavy weight of a difficult economy, which contributed to massive losses at the polls in 2010.

Democrats I talked with early this week were apprehensive, hopeful -- and some were scared. Other than the debacle of Clint Eastwood's mind-boggling speech, the GOP put on a very well-organized convention that tore into President Barack Obama's economic policies.

Polls consistently showed Republicans more enthusiastic about their candidate, Mitt Romney, than Democrats for Obama. His handling of the economy has taken a major hit, even as his likeability rating trumps Mitt's.

Roland Martin

"When your life was low,

You had nowhere to go.

People turned their backs on you,

And everybody said that you were through."

Democrats began their therapy session Tuesday with fiery, focused and fierce speeches by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and the resoundingly successful Michelle Obama.

Gergen: Harsh realities for Democrats

That was followed Wednesday by an electric speech by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri on Wednesday that wasn't shown nationwide but had the delegates behaving as if they were in a revival. The speech from Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, wasn't a barn burner but was serviceable in exciting the crowd for the ultimate closer, President Bill Clinton. The room was on fire as the former president tore into the plans of Romney and Paul Ryan with the precision of a surgeon.

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Then it was on to Thursday, where Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the last surviving speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, focused the hall on the GOP's voter suppression efforts; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm delivered one of the most animated speeches in memory; Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry shook off the boring label and swung hard at Romney-Ryan; and they were followed by a strong, presidential speech by Obama.

While many in the media have decried Obama's speech as not having the normal oratory flair of others he's delivered, it's critical to understand that it was an in-your-pew speech that connected in a much more personal way than he has done in the past. Everything ain't champagne and caviar. Regular folks eat meat, rice and gravy!

"I took you in, made you strong again

Put you back together.

Out of all the dreams you left along the way,

You left me shining."

The inspiration of 2008 and the theme of hope and change clearly couldn't be duplicated. The beauty of such a message is that it is indefinable. You can have 1,000 people believe in it. The problem is they also carry 1,000 different expectations, and even if you make 60% of them happy, you're still facing a disappointed lot.

Begala: Democrats fix their enthusiasm gap

Last week's convention served as a much-needed reset for Democrats. They were reminded of who they are and for what they stand. The aggressive tone the delegates took when issues such as a woman's right to choose were raised points to a defense of Democratic ideals, even if you disagree.

"Now you're doing well

From stories I hear tell.

You own the world again.

Everyone's your friend."

Now that the marker has been set for the next 60 or so days of campaigning, the question is whether the three days of Democratic unity in Charlotte can be bottled up and spread across the nation, especially in battleground states: Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin.

This election will come down to who gets their base voters out, and to do that, they must care. On the Republican side, they care enough about not liking Obama to drive their folks to the polls.

Now we'll see whether the Democrats' fits of political depression can be shaken off after the show of rhetorical force. Let's see if there is a renewed vigor from the constituencies that vaulted Obama to the White House four years ago.

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