Dwelling on the matter a little more, I'd give the speech a B-plus. I was expecting the telegenic attorney, whose oratorical skills helped make him one of the most successful trial lawyers in the country, to blow me away. Yet I was merely impressed. And in a race this close, that may not be quite good enough.
Certainly, the speech will appeal to lots of everyday, anxious folks in swing states like Ohio. But they
are probably going to vote Kerry/Edwards anyway.
The delivery was fine, but less than inspired. Rev. Al Sharpton aroused more passion. Edwards seemed to move a little too quickly through some key passages of the speech. And while his vow to destroy al Qaeda made the right point, I didn't think that it sounded quite as believable coming from Edwards (We'll see how it sounds coming from Kerry tonight.) Edwards speaks with a lot more authority on bread-and-butter domestic issues. His limited experience doesn't enhance his stature on the topic of national security, and the expression on his face seemed to betray a lack of confidence.
There was an internal contradiction in Edwards speech, too. He worked mightily to be positive and hopeful. Yet, at the same time, he worked mightily to convince his audience that the economy is in bad shape and people are hurting. That's the old-time religion for the Democrats, clashing with Reagan-Clinton style optimism. It's tough to reconcile these two points of view, and could leave an opening for the Bush-Cheney campaign, which will argue a clearer line.
The "two Americas' theme also will be a tough sell. The Democrats always seem to be too pessimistic on the economy when it suits their political purposes. Two years ago in the midterm congressional camapaign, they sketched a dire scenario in which automakers were about to go bankrupt, and the rest of the economy was going to be consumed in the fire of disinflation. The sky was falling? Nope.
Given the limits of the message, Edwards needed to drive his point home with the skills of a Clarence
Darrow. He made a very good argument. But the jury is still out.