Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When is a Keynote Address Not a Keynote Address?

Mark Warner's speech last night was advertised as the "Keynote" speech. Tyoically, the keynote address is a major event. Ann Richards, Barrack Obama and Mario Cuomo became major political figures after giving Democratic convention keynote addresses.


Warner's speech wasn't in prime time (defined as the 10 PM - 11 PM time slot);

Wasn't carried on the networks, which didn't turn to the convention until 10 PM.

In short, it was merely an "opening act" for Senator Clinton.

What gives?

Worse, it was followed by a better received, more partisan address by Ohio Governor Ted Stickland, which appears to have been the "real" keynote address as it did begin after 10 PM and was carried on the networks.

(Again:much if not all the convention is being carried on NPR or, even better, C-SPAN is carrying all of it if you can do without the talking heads)

This leads us to the question: Is a keynote speech really a keynote speech if no one hears it? More importantly, why was Warner's speech billed as the keynote, yet the former Virginia governor and soon to be Virginia Senator given the city councilman treatment?

Perhaps the real goal was to troll for votes in Virginia, which typically votes Republican in national elections, but has been leaning more Democratic in state elections in recent years, and is viewed as a potential Democratic pickup in 2008. The New York Times blog reports:
Mr. Warner’s high-profile appearance at the convention – his speech was the gathering’s keynote address – reveals just how crucial Senator Barack Obama’s campaign believes he is to their success in November. Virginia is a key swing state, and Mr. Warner is a highly popular political figure there who appealed to voters across the political spectrum in all areas of the state when he was governor.
If that was the goal, it certainly didn't serve its purpose. I suspect few swing voters in Virginia have any clue that Warner was given a place of honor at the Democratic convention.

If Warner's speech wasn't the typical "fire up the crowd" address favored at political conventions, it was a model for a civilized, forward looking address that kept negativity to a minimum.

It was hopeful:

Not the campaign for the Presidency. Not the campaign for Congress. But the race for the future. And I believe from the bottom of my heart with the right vision, the right leadership, and the energy and creativity of the American people, there is no nation that we can’t out hustle or out compete. And no American need be left out or left behind.
Humorous and humble:
After I graduated law school, it didn’t take long to realize that America really wouldn’t miss me as a lawyer. So I started a business. My first company failed in six weeks. My next one was much more successful. It failed in six months.
And did not overreach:
In George Bush and John McCain’s America, far too many. Let’s be fair, some of these challenges were inevitable. But all of them are more severe, more immediate, and more threatening because of the misguided policies and outdated thinking of this administration.
It's a real shame that Warner aborted his own Presidential run as early as he did. It's also too bad that his address wasn't given the usual "keynote" treatment.

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