Conventions risk speaking at voters, not to them

Posted September 6, 2012 4:52 p.m. EDT
Updated September 6, 2012 7:23 p.m. EDT

— Like the Republican National Convention last week, the Democratic National Convention has been almost choreographed, with speakers sticking to a defined set of talking points.

North Carolina's convention contingent is well-versed in the party message.

"We're not looking to go backwards," Gov. Beverly Perdue said in welcoming delegates on Tuesday.

"(We need to) push this thing forward," Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said in his address to the convention.

When told that the convention was hearing the same message over and over, top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said, "We're glad you feel that way."

Jarrett said President Barack Obama is disappointed that the chance of thunderstorms forced him to move his Thursday night acceptance speech from Bank of America Stadium into the much smaller Time Warner Cable Arena – leaving thousands of volunteers on the outside looking in.

"It will be cozy here, but we couldn't take any chances," she said. "We had to put safety first."

Obama will use the opportunity to lay out his vision for moving the nation forward, she said. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Beau also will speak to that vision.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the message isn't getting in the way of finding practical answers to the problems many Americans still face.

"We've got a way to go, but we're making progress," Wasserman Schultz said. "(People) know, as President Clinton said last night, the problems we inherited were worse than any other since (the Great Depression)."

William Peace University political science professor David McLennan said there is a danger of speaking at voters instead of to them by sticking too much to the script.

"I think for the average citizen, they're looking for everyday conversation – we're spontaneous. They're not seeing their political leaders do that," McLennan said.

In many cases, artful speakers, such as Clinton and President Barack Obama, still get across the message. They just do it in a different way.