It was a speech about family, about humble beginnings and about Barack Obama.
As the first night of the Democratic National Convention kicked off, a long list of speakers touted Obama as American, as middle-class, as a guy just like you.
His million-dollar home, ivy-league college education and status as the likely Democratic presidential candidate aside, the speeches on Monday night cast the first-term Illinois Senator with decidedly humble roots as no elitist.
“He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, just like we did,” said Obama’s wife Michelle Obama, the evening’s keynote speaker. “Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves.”
With poll numbers narrowing in recent weeks, the middle-class is where Obama, or his millionaire Republican opponent John McCain, will win the White House and both men know it. Americans are feeling the pain from high gas prices, expensive food and growing inflation. Jobs are being lost and people’s quality of life is going down. Not many people would say they are better off today than four years ago.
The problem for both campaigns is that most Americans agree either candidate will be better for them than the policies of President George W. Bush. To that end, both campaigns are centering their message to the middle class, to working Americans who rightly feel the Bush administration hasn’t fought for them.
McCain has gained momentum in recent weeks pushing domestic drilling for more oil — a popular viewpoint among working Americans — telling voters he wants to lower energy costs and ease their pain. Obama has promised Americans his Robin Hood tax plan will benefit them at the cost of the uber-wealthy and bring Americans the help the need. Both campaigns are promising change.
That message of change and of a leader who will fight for the middle-class will play well in Colorado. Voter pocketbooks here have been hurt in the last 10 years, with the end of the tech boom in the late 90s and again in 2002 with the recession that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A leader who understands the struggle of the working class will thrive here in November.
To that end, Michelle Obama’s Monday night address hit home. It lacked the politically heated flare that convention speeches often embody, instead taking a softer, more gentle tone. She told the gathered crowd of more than 4,200 delegates, thousands of media and other guests about the day her husband drove their first-born daughter home from the hospital, about his community organizing efforts to help laid-off workers in Chicago and about his work for the underprivileged.
Referencing his decision to forgo a job on Wall Street in order to help work with workers left jobless from the closing of a steel plant, Mrs. Obama pounded on her theme that her husband will fight for Americans today just like he did the steel plant workers 20 years ago.
“(Those) people (were) ordinary folks, doing the best they could to build a good life,” she said. “They were parents living paycheck to paycheck, grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income, men frustrated that they couldn’t support their families after their jobs disappeared.”