Obama’s convention speech

July 28, 2016 by Sam Wang

In case you missed it, it’s here. A must-watch speech for members of either party. President Obama is appealing to patriotism and love of country, and making a move to scoop up voters across the spectrum.


Tony says:

I may be biased as a Democrat, but after watching both conventions I just don’t see how Trump can win. The Democrats exude professionalism and passion, while the Republicans seemed small and only interested in seeing Clinton lose.
With that speech, the Democrats are going for the blowout. That speech, and Bloomberg, are aimed at convincing Republican voters to jump ship from Trump.

Mark F. says:

You are biased, and shouldn’t let your biases (we all have them) blind you to Trump’s appeal. With 2/3 of the country feeling it is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to see how Trump might win.

Adam says:

Which is funny to me, Mark F (the wrong direction) because the President has a positive approval rating…but it’s Congress with the disaster evaluation.
Yet, everyone will just vote for their same rep, because it’s everyone else…

Michael Coppola says:

Of course, the thing about the direction question is that the people who answer “wrong direction” don’t all agree on what the right direction would be.

Kari Q says:

In 2012, 55% of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track, yet the sitting president was reelected. It appears that the right track/wrong track question is no longer predictive of electoral outcome.

SP says:

Has anyone asked why these people think the country is going in the wrong direction?

538 Refugee says:

Good, but Michelle left me with a more positive impression.

FurnitureMusic says:

I liked this comment I read about Obama’s speech last night on the NY Times website: “I tell my kids, this is what Role Models look like… Michelle and Obama… and yes, even Hillary Clinton; still standing tall and dignified, moving on, not taking the bait, trying to do the best work possible, for the most people possible; staying present, staying calm, staying kind. Last night I was proud to be an American.” I will miss President Obama’s compassion, grace, charm and terrific public speaking.

SP says:

Could not believe that in this day and age, the sitting president of the United States has to make a case for democracy, against authoritarianism.
The difference between the two conventions has been remarkable. That was an incredibly good speech (in a night and a convention full of good speeches), which could be a problem for Clinton, who is not known to be a good orator.

Commentor says:

Irrespective of party, Obama is just really good at politics. B. Clinton and Reagan are the other two in my lifetime that have this level of pure political skill.

Amitabh Lath says:

He has unsurpassed rhetorical gifts, no question. But will it move the needle?
Will it appeal to people who normally vote Republican? I cannot begin to understand how the decision making process works in someone who can reject basic science like blackbody radiation and quantum mechanical scattering when it predicts man-made global warming, and who prefers shutdowns over compromise as a governing strategy.
This speech may well pick off some centrist republicans (both of them).

SP says:

My gut says that his appeal will purely be to unenthusiastic democrats, who are considering staying home. I think that Bloomberg did more to sway independents and waffling Republicans than pretty much anyone else.
There is speculation that the Clinton campaign is planning to trot out (not at the DNC, of course) a series of prominent Republicans who have/will repudiate Trump. That might help as well.

Mark F. says:

Repeating liberal clichés over and over won’t win you elections, I can tell you that.

SP says:

It would be news to liberals that the president is one.

Matt McIrvin says:

The Meta-Margin has ticked up, but I’m not sure it was on the basis of actual recent polls as opposed to the feed changes. I think I’ve seen one state poll from the DNC period, in PA, that looked pretty good. And there’s one national poll out, which is Rasmussen, and it’s Clinton +1… which would be a big Democratic bounce for Rasmussen.
But it’s really impossible to say anything yet.

deb says:

Interesting that so far all 3 nights the DNC ratings were higher than RNC which were promised to be huuuuuge to the point where Trump is now asking his followers not to watch tonight.
Any correlation to ratings and turnout?

Kari Q says:

“Geoffrey Skelley, political analyst for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, pulled Neilsen ratings for conventions going back to 1960 and compared them to who went on to win. Of the 14 conventions held during this time frame, the ratings winner prevailed at the polls seven times, according to his analysis. ”

Deb says:

What about the last 4 elections? A lot has changed since 1960. We had 1 TV then.

Kari Q says:

No correlation with election results in recent years, either.
Belatedly, I realize the original question was about turnout. I don’t know about that one.

bks says:

Erick, son of Erick, was granted permission to quote someone anonymously?

Eural Joiner says:

Quick question for a newbie here – I see a tab at the top for “Senate Snapshot” but nothing for the House. What am I missing here? Thanks!

Bill G. says:

House information is the first chart under “2016 House and Senate” on the left side of the page. It is a bit more abstract since than the Senate prediction since there are so many more races.

RDT says:

I don’t really buy the “with all the people thinking the country is going in the wrong direction” argument…
Trump isn’t offering generic change. He’s offering change toward a specific intolerant, authoritarian direction. Many voters already understand that, and I think more will as the campaign progresses.
And as an aside… Does anyone know when “right direction” polled over 50%?

mikev says:

I think I heard on a 538 podcast that there have only been 5 years since 1970 when that questions has consistently said we’re heading in the “right direction”. It’s kind of a vacuous question, and since the media insists on making the world sound scary and horrible, we will probably never see a majority saying we are on the “right track”.

Scott says:

I found it enormously interesting that it was the Dems (Obama) who mentioned Reagan’s America as a “shining light on the hill” and not the Republicans. They didn’t mention Reagan at all, so far as I saw. Makes sense, I suppose, considering the Republican party is absolutely nothing like Reagan’s Republican Party anymore.

James Orr says:

Not absolutely nothing like it. Remember that Reagan began his campaign with a speech at Philadelphia Mississippi (the site of the killing of three voting rights workers), touting “States Rights”.

Jon says:

The “city on a hill” phrase is from John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay colony.

pechmerle says:

Winthrop got it from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14.

Jay Sheckley says:

Sermon on the Mount’s imagery comes from Ezekiel whose heavenly vision in the Hebrew year 3372 [389 BCE ] of Jerusalem restored is known by a number of names, including “New_Jerusalem” which Wikipedia also lists as “Shining city on a Hill”. Speaking of numbers and prophesy, we’re returned to the topic at hand.

MarkS says:

The election will be decided by people who vote by feelings, not arguments. Trump has proven to be a genius at intuiting the feelings that he needs to access to win. Clinton has no such personal talent, but does have an army of political data analysts who might be able to craft a winning persona for her. Tonight’s speech will be a key test of how well this is going.
Then there is the Democratic data-driven GOTV effort vs the Republican voter-suppression effort, enabled by their control of state government in key states.
Finally there is the rebellion be the Bernie dead-enders. I find it amusing that Bernie so often rails against Citizens United; if Gore had been president instead of Bush, 2 SCOTUS justices would have been different people. But Nader (the Bernie of his day) took just enough votes away from Gore.

Amitabh Lath says:

I suspect numbers of staff on the ground and
GOTV infrastructure and databases will make
a difference. My understanding is that Clinton is ahead on this front.

Olav Grinde says:

“Trump has proven to be a genius at intuiting the feelings that he needs to access to win.
@MarkS: Let us examine your point. Which feelings is Donald J. Trump “accessing”? Compassion? Care? Humility?
No, he is channeling very different feelings: rage, fear and anxiety, and hatred.
If those feelings are to be the basis for a Trump victory, then I fear it tells us all we need to know about the sort of Presidency we can expect during a Trump reign.
I think America is better than that. For those feelings are radically different from – and fundamentally opposed to – the sentiments that are at the heart of the founding documents of this great nation.
Donald Trump has made his case. Tonight Hillary Clinton is making hear case. In the weeks and months ahead the polls will more clearly indicate the preference of American voters in the coming election.

Matt McIrvin says:

She also has Obama on her side, and he’s a maestro at this.

MarkS says:

Just finished watching the HRC speech. Will Sam flag it as a “must watch”?

Michael Levinsohn says:

I keep wondering what was missed in the Brexit polling, and whether something similar may be missed here. Any thoughts?

Josh says:

The aggregated polling median going into Brexit was Remain (+1%) and the result was Leave (+2%). It was a miss in the most literal sense, but the discrepancy between the prediction and the result was only 3%–basically the same as the average miss during the primaries here. There was also less polling on Brexit than there will be here during the general campaign, and more polling usually –> a more accurate prediction.

mt says:

I think one main reason why polling for Brexit was much harder: it was a 1-off. Polling for presidential elections is a craft that has been honed over many rounds. See what happened in the primary polls in Michigan, where the data from the previous 8 years ago did not provide a good model.

Ed Wittens Cat says:

As someone who was part of the genius Dream Team ground game in 2012 (canvassing & GOTV) i wonder how advances in Data Science have improved the democratic machine.
…and how much of the 58% turnout was enthusiasm for the candidate and how much was the result of Dream Team methodology…
…and if it will matter that Trump didnt build a ground game at all during the primary…
…and if the GOP improved ORCA after the lesson of 2012…

Doctor Science says:

Hey, E.W.Cat! Maybe you can answer something about data-driven campaigning.
I’ve heard that the Obama ’08 data campaign was inspired by the pioneering Bush ’04 effort. Obama ’12 and now Hillary ’16 inherit directly from OFA’08.
Did McCain’08 & Romney’12 inherit from Bush’04 at all? I have the impression that they didn’t, and the GOP is now 3 full cycles behind the Dems – even absent the fact that Trump has no ground game. Do you know if this happened, and why?

Ed Wittens Cat says:

Dr. Science
I am specifically reffing the Dream Team relational database which incorporated cutting edge behavioral science to “turn out invisible likely dem voters”.
I am not associated with OFA this time around, but I imagine the db upgrades exploit both datascience and deep learning advances in the field.
After the debacle of ORCA the GOP would be working frantically to build a dream team style db based on strategies publicized after the election in 2012. Neither side will reveal details until after November– its prolly at the level of industrial espionage to see what improvements have been made 🙂
OFA would have a legacy advantage of four years, and also what I would call a cultural advantage?
A deeper pool of talent (research scientists) to draw on.
The original Dream Team volunteered much of their time.
I admit im supercurious– there have been hyyyuuuge advances in deep learning and data science in the past 4 years.

Ron says:

ORCA was so horrible, it probably performed at 0% so ANY improvement would be an INFINITY increase

Doctor Science says:

I’m pretty sure that the GOP *can’t* improve ORCA substantially, because: with what money? Normally the Presidential campaign is the big money-gatherer and data-center, but the Trump campaign is neither. I haven’t heard that the RNC is filling the gap – and it’s pretty damn late in the cycle for them to gear up now.

Ed Wittens Cat says:

In the discussion abt how this site has a special appeal for stringy types– i just realized there seems to be zero intellectual representation for Trumpism– the GOP intlligentsia like George Will seems to have entirely left the building…all the sciency types i follow are wholly (and rabidly) anti-Trump.
Can a movement survive without intellectual representation?
Is this similiar to the Know-Nothings?

Sam Wang says:

There are some, but they are admittedly outnumbered. And then there are rejected comments like this one:
“I don’t believe any of these polls because most fo the media and liberals are doing them and tend to favor the left. I am neither Dem or Repub,b but ther is a great dael of bias towards Mr. Trump and everybody knows it.

Sandy S. says:

For Sam: Obama was fantastic, I thought-but I’m both a Democrat and a long-term supporter. The three big questions are:
(1). How did it sound to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents? Few of them here, I would guess.
(2). How did it sound to people who are not academic types and maybe aren’t following the race very carefully?
(3). Most important: how do you get most people, who are not terribly interested in politics, to willingly take time out to listen to a full speech – even one by the President and most eloquent speaker of his generation?

Me says:

Obama’s speech was like watching an inside the park grand slam followed by an inside the park grand slam in the same inning. Unprecedented.

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