CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The first night of the Democratic convention wrapped up a plateful of red-meat speeches in a soft taco of personal stories presented by the final speaker, first lady Michelle Obama.
The first lady’s speech hit numerous cultural notes that may bolster the president’s support among late-deciding, conflict-averse, non-ideological voters, and only provided hard-to-recognize, or “dog-whistle,” support for many of Obama’s most controversial policies.
Many of the coveted voters are white working-class voters in the Midwest’s battleground states of Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, who have seen little benefits from Obama’s economic and social policies.
Obama’s ratings among those critical voters has been hit hard by the stalled economy, declining wages and record unemployment.
Those ratings have also been damaged by the president’s progressive social polices, which include support for a continued immigration of low-wage workers, the use of church to fund abortion-related services required by the Obamacare law and a redefinition of marriage to allow single-sex unions.
Obama’s ratings have also been hit hard by Mitt Romney’s campaign. So far, the Republican nominee has spent tens of millions of dollars on ads that highlight Obama’s support for several controversial issues, including a rollback in welfare-to-work rules, massive spending increases and huge deficits.
Her speech downplayed those policies, which were cited in careful language that would not likely be recognized by non-political voters.
“Our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine. … Women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies. … [Barack] wants everyone to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like or who we love.”
The first lady was introduced by a speech from a mother of four service members, who declared that she would support the Obamas because they supported her family.
The first lady’s speech first painted a picture of ordinary American life, of hard-working Americans worried about bills and health, work and education.
It was very similar to the stump-speech that she has been delivering at fundraisers around the country. She ended the speech abruptly and left the stage rapidly.
“Despite these challenges, my dad hardly ever missed a long day’s work,” the first lady said in recounting her upbringing to a hushed and attentive audience.
“Like so many of us, that was the measure of his success in life — being able to earn a decent living allowed him to support his family.”
“So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. He’s thinking about the pride that comes from a hard-day’s work.”
“Barack knows the American dream, because he’s lived it … and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity,” she said, shortly after former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland suggested that Romney is disloyal to Americans.
The speech — and the evening’s other speeches — lacked the spice offered in 2008 when the campaign repeatedly emphasized candidate Barack Obama’s exotic middle name, Hussein, or his foreign father.
In fact, the first lady was preceded by a soft-focus video, in which the president praised Michelle Obama.
This evening, Obama’s geographically absent dad remained rhetorically absent, either from the first lady’s wrap-up speech, or any of the many speakers who preceded her.
However, the speech did include a few portions of poll-tested meat.
Obama “believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity … you do not slam it shut behind you,” she said.
“He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs … because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” said the first lady.
“If I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and all our sons and daughters. … We must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to peep moving this great country forward, my husband, our president, President Barack Obama.”
“Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America,” she said as she ended her speech suddenly.