Sabato's Crystal Ball

Boston Morning Tea

Matt Smyth, Senior Correspondent July 29th, 2004

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Does Edwards have Recipe for Success?

Any American chef worth his or her salt knows what happens when you combine black eyed peas, a little bit of ham for flavor, some rice, and a few other ingredients. The result is a traditional Southern side-dish known as Hoppin’ John. Last night at the Democratic National Convention, it was a different kind of John who had the crowd hoppin’. John Edwards’s speech, which did have a measure of starchy substance alongside the warmth and flavor, brought the simmering Fleet Center crowd to a boil. Throw in a performance by Black Eyed Peas at the end, and you’ve got a recipe that had all of the delegations salivating, not just those south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The success of the VP nominee’s performance inside the convention hall is unquestioned. The success outside, however, is another story. Many have noted that his “Two Americas” theme is a striking contrast with Barack Obama’s “One America” speech on Tuesday. While Edwards certainly answered any questions about his desire to serve his country in the White House, he spent little time discussing his actual qualifications to hold the office. When compared to current VP Dick Cheney in terms of charisma, comeliness, campaign skill, and connecting with people, the North Carolina Senator wins hands down. The area where Cheney holds a significant edge is experience, and this is where you’ll see Republicans focus their energy during the campaign.

Edwards got about as specific as you’re going to hear a candidate get in a convention speech, and talked about a plan for creating good paying jobs, investing in innovation and technology, tax breaks for health care and education, welfare reform, and the patients bill of rights. He also spoke briefly about his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee during a discussion of terrorism and homeland defense. One side will call him green and unprepared; the other will say he is unspoiled by Beltway politics-as-usual. But, it’s important to remember that a vice presidential nominee rarely impacts the outcome of the election, so while it makes for an interesting show, almost all of the attention will rightfully be focused at the top of the ticket.

All Buttered Up for the Roll

After all of the speeches and the musical performances, many members of the media and special guests began to file out of the Fleet Center, leaving the delegates on the floor and a small pockets of die-hard conventioneers to watch what is technically the most important part of the entire week: the Roll Call of the States, where each state’s delegation casts its votes for the party’s nominee. While this is now a formality, with the nomination having been decided months ago, it is still a functional part of the convention process. In addition, it gives each state (and U.S. territory) the opportunity to briefly address what’s left of the crowd. Your Crystal Ball stayed to watch the action, and here are a few highlights: