There’s not a lot I can say about day one of the Democratic National Convention that hasn’t been written about in a million places already. All the ups and downs, highlights and lowlights. But how did the RNC compare to the DNC on each of their first days? I’ve put together a head-to-head list of the final ten speakers of each night. They’re all in order, except I switched the order of the last two speakers at the RNC to come up with the more-apropos comparison of Michelle Obama vs. Ann Romney and keynote speaker vs. keynote speaker. In each case, the Republican appears first, followed by the Democrat. I’ll do a similar comparison for Wednesday and Thursday, and then at the end we’ll total them all up and find out who had the better convention.
10. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vs. Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Gov. Fallin had a just-OK speech. Politicians that have a rags-to-riches story to tell are fond of repeating it ad nauseam (see: Barack Obama, John Edwards, etc., etc., etc.). But when they don’t have such a story, they just draw on someone else’s. Gov. Fallin relied on the story of Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, who started his life in the energy sector at the age of 26 by, as Fallin put it, drilling “a wildcat well that produced 75 barrels of oil an hour. We call that a gusher.” Is that really the Republican message for prosperity? Get lucky? Oy. Sebelius, being HHS Secretary, went through a point-by-point explanation of everything Obamacare has given the country. It’s something that needs to be hammered home again and again if the Democrats intend to win in November. (Democrats 1, Republicans 0)
9. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker vs. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Walker came out strong and was greeted by thunderous applause throughout his speech. His war against public-sector unions plays well with Republicans, of course, and he’s become something of a folk hero. Emanuel has a reputation as a firebreather, and stories about his foul-mouthed, endearingly thuggish behavior behind closed doors are legion. He’s like a political version of Entourage‘s Ari Gold, which is perfect given that the Gold character was based on Rahm’s brother. But for all that, his speech at the convention was strangely muted. (Democrats 1, Republicans 1)
8. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval vs. Kal Penn. Gov. Sandoval tried to put a happy face on the GOP’s problem with Hispanic voters, citing his own story as a Hispanic American. That is a huge deal for the GOP. They need to court Hispanic voters like the Democrats need to remind people of everything Obamacare has done for them. Kal Penn’s speech was pretty funny, but it didn’t really add anything for the Democrats. (Democrats 1, Republicans 2)
7. Delaware Lt. Gov. candidate Sher Valenzuela vs. Michelle Obama’s brother Craig Robinson and Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-ng. Valenzuela’s speech may have been breathtakingly hypocritical, but it hammered home the “we built it” theme. Robinson and Soetero-ng were just-OK. They humanized the president, but being humanized isn’t something Obama needs to worry about. That’s a Romney problem. (Democrats 1, Republicans 3)
6. Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz vs. Lilly Ledbetter of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act fame. Cruz’s Obama-biting closing to his speech came off petulant and bitchy. Lilly Ledbetter, with her deep Southern drawl, looked out-of-place at the DNC, but in a good way; she served as a reminder that it’s OK to fight for equal rights and be a Democrat in the Deep South far more than Cruz reminded people that it’s OK to be a Hispanic and vote Republican. (Democrats 2, Republicans 3)
5. Former Democratic congressman Artur Davis vs. Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick. Davis was OK, and it was good that the Republicans had a Democrat to make the case for crossing the aisle; the Dems will have their own crossing-the-aisle moment when Charlie Crist speaks. But Patrick may have had the best speech of the night. It was greeted with thunderous applause, and it laid waste o Mitt Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts. (Democrats 3, Republicans 3)
4. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley vs. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. O’Malley may have actually had a better speech than Haley. He got good crowd interaction and touched on several policy points, while Haley served mainly as an introduction to Ann Romney. But because O’Malley was sandwiched between Gov. Duval Patrick and the Castro brothers, he came off as an also-ran. (Democrats 3, Republicans 4)
3. First Lady of Puerto Rico Luce Vela Gutierrez vs. Texas congressional candidate Joaquin Castro. Gutierrez, given an incredible time slot, once again stressed the Hispanic makeup of the Republican Party, though pulling in the First Lady of Puerto Rico was a bit of a stretch. She served as an introduction to Ann Romney, while Castro served to introduce his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Give the point to the GOP for putting yet another woman and yet another Hispanic on the dais. (Democrats 3, Republicans 5)
2. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vs. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Castro wins this hands down. The buzz after Christie’s speech was that it was shamelessly self-serving and didn’t mention Mitt Romney until the very end. Castro electrified the crowd and walked off the stage to rave reviews. His performance fairly well negated all the Hispanic love at the RNC. (Democrats 4, Republicans 5)
1. Ann Romney vs. Michelle Obama. Another easy win for the Dems. Romney’s performance was pretty good, but if anyone beat Patrick and Castro for speech of the night at the DNC, it was the First Lady. (Democrats 5, Republicans 5)
So, after day one, we’ve got a tie! The outstanding speeches of each night were probably Ann Romney and Julian Castro — and what does it say about the first day of the RNC that the best speech of the night handed the GOP a loss? Anyway, we’ll see if one party can pull ahead tonight. Coming up tonight: Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former President Bill Clinton take up the slots that were filled by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.