It’s not unusual for a presidential nominee to appear at the convention, either in person or on video, before his formal acceptance speech. Done properly, the pre-acceptance cameo can stir some extra excitement and build anticipation for the nominee’s Thursday night speech.
Perhaps the finest execution of this tradition was Bill Clinton’s march to Madison Square Garden when he officially clinched the nomination during the roll call of the states in July 1992. As patriotic music blared and delegates celebrated in the hall, Clinton, along with his wife and daughter, walked from his hotel room, across a street and through a department store and to the Garden, where he waded through the sea of delegated on the floor before reaching the foot of the stage. Handed a portable microphone, he made his remarks short and sweet:
"The rules of this convention preclude my acceptance tonight, but 32 years ago another young candidate who wanted to get this country moving again came to this convention to say a simple thank you. And so, like John F. Kennedy, I just want to say thank-you – and to let you know that tomorrow night you’re going to see the real comeback kid."
Clinton said just enough to set the crowd into a frenzy -– and not a syllable more, making sure to leave them wanting more. Barack Obama’s campaign chose a different tack.
The idea was certainly sound: Just after Michelle Obama finished her speech (a few minutes before the broadcast networks sign off for the 11:00 local news, not coincidentally) and was joined on stage by her two daughters, Barack Obama himself appeared on the giant video screens in the hall from Kansas City, where he was campaigning. Especially since the theme of Michelle’s speech had been family, Barack’s presence was more than appropriate.
But then it kept going. Instead of Obama simply telling his wife and children that he loved them and missed them and couldn’t wait to see them Thursday, there was a prolonged exchange between the family and the giant Obama head on the screen. Then Obama brought the Kansas City family with whom he was staying into the conversation, and the camera shot, an attempt to show his ability to relate to ordinary folks.
The live audience seemed to like it. You have to wonder, though, if it was a bit much for the people watching at home.