The Speech as Campaign Template

The strength of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech lay not in its eloquence but in the candidate’s determination to answer, methodically and clearly, the remaining doubts about him.

Woven into the theme of America’s promise, Obama methodically answered the hard questions. Is he an exotic elitist, remote from the concerns and values of the sinking American middle class? No, he was raised by middle-class Americans who had their own ups and downs and taught him those same values. Is he too diffident to fight for victory in a harsh election? No, he told the Republicans to bring it. He directly confronted insinuations about his patriotism, then refuted their claims about John McCain’s judgment, experience, and independence (and hung Bush around McCain’s neck). Is he so lofty and cerebral that he cannot or will not explain what he intends to do as president? He laid out specific policy proposals on taxes, economic renewal, energy, education, and restoring American prestige in the world.

It was not a flawless speech, but it set down a pattern that Obama and his surrogates can follow from now until Election Day, punching and counterpunching, cleanly but aggressively.