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Professor analyzes DNC’s effects

Jillian Barwick | Friday, September 14, 2012

With both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions completed, both parties anticipate lively debates leading up to the election.

Michael Kramer, political communication professor at Saint Mary’s, shared his overall thoughts on both conventions and what the public can expect as the political debates quickly approach.

“At the Democratic Nation Convention (DNC), there were two speeches that really stood out to viewers,” Kramer said. “Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton both delivered enthralling speeches to the public.”

While both were widely accepted, each speaker provided very different takes on President Barack Obama and the campaign, Kramer said.

“Michelle’s was more aimed at the heart. It was emotional; it gave a real personal account of Barack Obama, but what she did that maybe went a bit beyond what

Ann Romney did was that she connected Barack personally to his political principles,” he said. “She showed the audience how the things that he believes and the policies that he’s pursued are connected to things that he’s lived or through what his family has lived, which helps to show that he doesn’t just follow polls, but that he’s actually looking at things that he feels deeply about.”

Clinton refuted the claims Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan made during his speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC), Kramer said.

“He did a very effective job of it, being very specific, showing humor and being dynamic,” he said. “I think it was a very helpful speech for Obama.”

Kramer said polls revealed that many viewers responded positively to Clinton’s speech.

As for Obama’s speech, Kramer said he believes it was different from the speeches he has given before.

“He was more grounded, not as lofty, and I think part of it was the economic conditions and knowing the job report that came out the following day was not going to be all that great,” he said. “Obama didn’t want to appear to be celebrating when a lot of people are still suffering.”

While Obama’s speech at the DNC was effectively the focal point of the conference, Kramer said he thinks viewers saw actor Clint Eastwood’s speech at the RNC as somewhat of a distraction to the purpose of the Romney-Ryan ticket.

As far as distractions for the Democrats, Kramer said distractions arose concerning their platforms.

“Recently, there was a lot of talk about how the Democrats had taken God out of their platform and had taken out references to Jerusalem. This caused great controversy and the Republicans really criticized the Democrats for doing this,” Kramer said. “They ended up putting the references back in, but by that time there were disagreements about re-adding to the platform. These made the Democrats look like they were not united about their platform.”

This was a distraction for the DNC, but because it was not connected to any of the speeches, Kramer said he is not so sure how much it actually resonated with the public.

“I think the platform discussions aren’t as relevant within the conventions as they used to be, so I think most people made their judgments about the RNC and the DNC based on the primetime speakers each party had,” he said.

President Obama and the Democratic Party gained more support after the DNC ended than the Republicans did after their convention, Kramer said.

“I think this is partly because of the distractions that the Republicans had and also because of the strength of Clinton’s speech, which I think put the Democrats out on top,” he said. “That was a real pivot point for the Democrats. I believe the Republicans probably would have liked to have a speaker as strong as Clinton at their convention.”

As debate season begins, it is likely that Romney and the Republican Party will remain behind Obama if the polls continue the way they are, Kramer said.

“Romney will have to work harder to make up ground during the debates and will have to perform at a higher level than Obama,” Kramer said.

For the debates, the expectations also play a role, he said.

“If the expectations for Romney are low as to how he must do in the debate, then he does not have to do as well in order to be seen as having ‘won it,'” Kramer said. “If he sets the expectations very high, or if the media sets the expectations high because he needs to come up in the polls, then that makes it more difficult for Romney.”

As for Obama, being ahead in the polls might make him think he does not have as much pressure on himself for the debates, a mindset Kramer said Obama should avoid.

“I think the public is still going to want to hear more specifics from Romney since he did not have many in his speech at the RNC,” he said. “The next few weeks will be interesting to see if he is going to flesh some more of his positions out and then certainly at the debate because that is something the public will want to hear then. The debates are sort of a last chance for voters to hear what Romney has to say before the election gets underway.”

Kramer said Obama will coast into the debates if he does not make any big mistakes.

“I think that will be his focus for leading up to the debates and the debates themselves,” he said.