Now the attention is on Charlotte, and the Democrats are going to have to go some to stage a more successful convention than the Republicans did. Conventions may not do much to sway the general public, but they can help shape a campaign, laying out its general thrust. And they can fire up the people who will go back to their own states and work on voters there.
That can influence elections, both for the presidency and for Congress, which this year will be crucial.
However well the Democrats perform this week, Obama's odds don't seem good. The truth is, the economy is recovering far more slowly than anybody wants. And while there are success stories in some states, a lot of people are feeling a lot of pain.
To that truth, Republicans are adding multiple fabrications (playing much looser with the facts than the Democrats, by numerous accounts). And as one Romney aide said, the campaign isn't going to be dictated by fact checking.
Even before the conventions, this campaign had sunk into dismaying negativity, with elected officials in both parties looking more like adolescent boys in a back-alley fight than statesmen doing the nation's business.
I was struck by Mark Leibovich's article in the New York Times Magazine, "Feel the Loathing on the Campaign Trail," and his fantasy of the Obamas inviting the Romneys to the White House, where they all sit around eating hot dogs, sharing personal stories and photographs, and getting to know one another. Leibovich, depressed by the current campaign, started sharing his fantasy with people at campaign stops. The pols politicized it; ordinary voters loved the thought.
Like Leibovich, I'm depressed. Maybe speakers at the Dems' convention will go positive, sticking to the facts and trusting voters to see the difference. But I doubt it. And maybe it wouldn't matter. Maybe I'm giving voters more credit than we're due. The truth is complicated. Crafting a successful future is complicated.
In the end, I'm not sure all the media fact checking in the world will matter. Republicans are counting on voters' gullibility, the need for simplicity, and I won't be surprised if it pays off. While Romney is accused of being vague about what he would do as president, he's probably being as specific as the average voter wants him to be. We may not know the "how" of his plans, but we can see the "what" pretty clearly, and he laid it out at the convention:
In a Romney presidency, the country will start "taking full advantage of our coal, our gas, our oil, our nuclear, and our renewables."
He'll "repeal Obamacare."
He'll "protect the sanctity of life, honor the institution of marriage, and guarantee the freedom of religion."
He'll "build an America so strong that no nation would dare test it."
"Every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance."
To help with the sale, Romney's speechwriters have come up with catchy lines that will play well not just to hard-core conservatives but also to Democrats, moderate Republicans, and independents:
"If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama four years ago, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?"
"President Obama promised to slow the rise of the ocean and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."
Barack Obama offered hope and change four years ago. Romney says he'll give us the bright future that Obama has destroyed: "That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and the freedom of the world require it."
That is the kind of emotional appeal that helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency. It was effective then. It could be effective now.
Meantime, various media are reporting that the Democrats convening in Charlotte are not as fired up as they were four years ago.
They'd better wake up.
Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Republican National Convention, Democratic National Convention, presidential election, presidential campaign