Guardian column: Obama’s speech fails as his outreach to undecided voters falls flat

by Ryan Streeter on September 7, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I participated in the Guardian’s panel on Obama’s acceptance speech last night. My point was that as he sought both to reassure his base and to reach out to the middle-of-the-road undecided voter, the speech didn’t work.

The leftward drift of the Democratic party, which has received a lot less attention in the media than the so-called rightward lurch of the Republicans, has pulled the Democrats farther from the undecided voter:

The Democratic party has become less the political home to the journeyman in Ohio and more the plaything of coastal wealthy elites such as Nancy Pelosi. That’s why the Democratic party’s 2012 platform endorsed gay marriage, removed any reference to God, and omitted reference to Jerusalem. It was only after Obama’s unexplained admonishment, and a bewildering mid-convention vote, that the latter two were forced back into the document.

So, as Obama tried to keep faith with the base, his promises to the middle were too many in number and too general in content:

The convention’s relentless promotion of abortion rights and pseudo-populist diatribes against “millionaires and billionaires” cemented the party’s leftward tilt. As much as the unemployed factory worker in Pennsylvania harbours no affection for the rich, the convention offered him little.

So, in his acceptance speech, Obama tried to reach that worker. But he failed. Unlike four years ago, when Obama talked of specific policies, he rattled off a laundry list of centrist-sounding goals, encased in unoriginal, sub-par speechwriting. He tried to address too many topics in general without talking specifically about jobs, the economy, or opportunity…Nothing in his speech told the undecided middle-class voter that anything in the next four years would be different than the unfulfilled promises of the last four.