Anchorage Aweigh

Political cliche has it that the first, best test of judgment for a presidential contender is his selection of a running mate. Now that Miss Wasilla (wah-SI-luh) has rounded out the Final Four competitors for the November election, the bottom line on Obama and McCain's vice-presidential picks is this: Obama's choice of Joe Biden was a governance decision while McCain's of Sarah Palin was purely about politics.

Pretty shrewd politics, too. The Weekly Standard, a bulletin board for conservative Republicans, enumerates 14 ways Palin helps McCain here.

DNC Report Card

Before Nancy Pelosi gaveled Democrats to order in Denver, CL posed five key questions, the answers to which would determine how successful their convention would be. Here's a report card on how they did:

1-Can Obama forge an emotional connection with voters? Michelle ran the ball past the 50-yard line with her touching speech on Monday night, and Obama put it into the end zone with his Mile High address, when he wisely left the ringing rhetoric on the mountaintop and spoke directly to concerns of undecided and independent middle class voters. The telling details of blue collar struggle by his mom and grandparents, when added to his recitation of liberal programs, gave full voice to the working class hero within him.
Grade: B+

2-How many votes will Hillary get? Before the convention, it looked as if Obama had given away the store to the Clintons. When the deal went down however, it became clear he'd brokered an even-steven play as both Hillary and Bill managed to fake sincerity in endorsing him during prime time, while he got to be nominated by acclamation.
Grade: A

3-How will Bubba behave? Very, very well.
Grade: A

4-How effective will Joe Biden be in tearing John McCain's face off? Biden did a serviceable job in limbering up for campaign wet work, but his top priority was introducing himself and his story to voters who don't spend Sunday mornings glued to "Face the Nation." The big surprise was that Obama took on the heavy lifting and, after a week of pundits complaining the Democrats hadn't hit hard McCain hard enough, Baracked his rival all by himself.
Grade: C

5-Can Democrats seize the issue of the economy? The Big Dog framed the election just right, knitting together the issues of global leadership and economic prosperity; Joey B. thumped the populist tub; The One unfurled an economic laundry list topped by middle class tax cuts. At the end of the week, though, the whole still seemed less than the sum of its parts.
Grade: B

Bottom Line: The Dems left Denver sky high, but McCain brought them swiftly back to Earth with his Palin pick, which instantly made Thursday's Obarama so 10 minutes ago.
Final Grade: B

Pass the Remote:

Gore floors it: Maybe he'd had one too many double Americanos, or maybe he had to dash for a plane: for whatever reason, Al Gore seemed like a white rat on speed in his warm-up speech for Obama Thursday night. Gore bolted, charged, rushed and hurtled through his text, stomping all over every one of his applause lines. Which was a damn shame, because it was a really good speech, the text of which can be found here. The best stuff was Gore's audacious but effective bid to draw parallels between Obama and Lincoln:

"A century and a half ago, when America faced our greatest trial, the end of one era gave way to the birth of another. The candidate who emerged victorious in that election is now regarded by most historians as our greatest president. Before he entered the White House, Abraham Lincoln's experience in elective office consisted of eight years in his state legislature in Springfield, Illinois, and one term in Congress - during which he showed the courage and wisdom to oppose the invasion of another country that was popular when it started but later condemned by history.

"The experience Lincoln's supporters valued most in that race was his powerful ability to inspire hope in the future at a time of impasse. He was known chiefly as a clear thinker and a great orator, with a passion for justice and a determination to heal the deep divisions of our land. He insisted on reaching past partisan and regional divides to exalt our common humanity. In 2008, once again, we find ourselves at the end of an era with a mandate from history to launch another new beginning. And once again, we have a candidate whose experience perfectly matches an extraordinary moment of transition."

I Like Ike: In contrast to Gore, Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the late Republican president, followed Prince Albert with a nice and easy presentation of a strange-bedfellows endorsement of Obama. Looking every inch the red-clad GOP matron, Eisenhower quoted Robert Frost in praising Obama's soft speak approach to foreign affairs: "The strong say nothing until they see."

Words matter: Amid overkill saturation coverage of the conventions, check out Politico Lens, a unique and very cool feature which breaks down every major speech and speaker. It's here.

See you on the couch for Minneapolis.

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