DNC 2012 vs RNC 2012: 9 Convention Highlights, Similarities and Key Differences


Now that the DNC and RNC conventions are over, let’s recap some of the memorable moments from both:

1) The Weather

The weather was center stage at both events. Hurricane Isaac roared into Tampa causing the GOP to cancel the first day and re-schedule their speeches. One day later, the RNC resumed in hot, sweltering Tampa. The DNC didn’t have any better luck. An anticipated thunderstorm forced the Dems to move the President’s speech from the outdoor open-air Bank of America Stadium to the much smaller Time-Warner Arena. The move from the 60,000-seat B of A stadium to the 19,000-seat TWC left a lot of attendees upset and led to speculation on the right that the venue change was prompted by the DNC’s inability to fill the large stadium. Both incidents left observers wondering if the event planners owned a Farmers’ Almanac. Who goes to Tampa in late August? Who doesn't know that August is rainy season in Charlotte?

2) Woman Power 

Both conventions showcased powerful and dynamic woman. The RNC demonstrated that their tent is expanding by showcasing Dr. Rice, Susana Martinez, Mia Love, Nikki Hayley, and Kelly Ayotte amongst others. The DNC had a broad range of women speakers in and out of politics, including: Tammy Duckworth, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

3) Behind Every Great Man

The respective spouses of the candidates, both gave glowing introductions and better speeches than their respective hubbies. Ann Romney, 63, was making her national debut. Her goal was to help people understand the warm, personal side of her husband. Mrs. Romney, a survivor of M.S. and breast cancer, gave a mostly well-received speech and had her best moment when she said, "I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a `storybook marriage. Those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage." Michelle Obama, the old pro, gave a classic performance and it was one of the best speeches of both conventions. From her stage presence to her delivery, it was brilliant. Her speech was such a big hit that even Fox News was kind to her. If Barack Obama is re-elected on November 6, he will owe more to his first lady than any president ever to win a second term. Her job was to remind Democrats why they loved and voted for Obama in 2008. And she did. With a mix of personal anecdotes and policy talk, Mrs. Obama's speech was by far her most political yet. "Today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are – it reveals who you are," she said.

4) The “Hard Luck” Candidates 

Who knew that prep school, Ivy leaguers Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had some tough times. Ann Romney and Michelle Obama both told some rather unbelievable anecdotes about being broke 20-somethings. “We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days,” said Ann Romney. Michelle Obama topped that story with one of her own. “I loved Barack just the way he was. You see, even though back then Barack was a Senator and a presidential candidate to me, he was still the guy who'd picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door. He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.”

5) The Omissions and Error Speeches 

Both sides led with style, some had substance, but all had errors. Paul Ryan’s speech was so filled with omissions and errors that it had his own party fact checking. Bill Clinton’s speech was riddled with enough questionable facts that the fact checkers are still at work.

6) Switched Identity 

The Democrats and Republicans switched identities this year. The Democrats stole a page from the Republicans and spent an awful lot of time talking about abortion, war and the military. These topics once were secure, safe territory for the Republicans. The Republicans on the other hand went strong on Medicare, a subject they dare not broach in the past.

7) Bizarre Moments: Both sides had some bizarre moments. The DNC had to take a roll call, voice vote to modify their charter. Seems like they modified their 2012 charter to exclude the word God and removed reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The GOP seized on this moment to suggest that the Democrats were somehow “godless” and distancing themselves from Israel. Obama and the party immediately moved to restore the language. But the process was played out on TV. Three times, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a yay/nay vote, and three times the nays had it. Villaraigosa looked up at the teleprompter and to a chorus of boos announced that the yays had it with a 2/3rd majority. The RNC featured what will go down as the most bizarre event in the history of conventions. Clint Eastwood was announced as a surprise guest speaker and he was slotted right before Romney’s speech. He gave what could only be described as an unorthodox performance at the RNC. He spoke to an empty chair in an attempt to lampoon Obama. It was so bizarre that it became the lead story of every news outlet, launched a new trend, ‘Eastwooding,’ and totally overshadowed Romney’s speech.

8) Ghosts of the Past 

Key figures from past administrations usually make an appearance at the convention. Former presidents are usually invited to speak at the party convention. This year, the respective parties were polar opposites in their usage of past administrations. Former President Bill Clinton gave one of the most memorable speeches of any convention and created a classic photo op when he and Obama shared a long hug on stage. The RNC, on the other hand, did not have anyone from the past administrations speak, other than Dr. Rice. This led Bill Maher to create a new rule. “If your party can run the nation for eight years, and then have a national convention and not invite Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, or Tom DeLay, you’re not a political movement,” he joked. “You’re the witness protection program.”

9) You don’t know Bain, I know Bain

The true story of Bain may never be known, but both parties took the opportunity to spin their versions. The GOP had three speakers focus their remarks on Romney's Bain experience. "For 30 years, I have been at Mitt Romney's side when he did extraordinary things. I'm his 'wingman. Our journey began when Mitt asked a small group of us to help him start an investment firm called Bain Capital." said Bob White, chairman of the Romney-Ryan campaign. "You can imagine my dismay, when I see this White House and their campaign demonizing Mitt Romney, demonizing Bain Capital, demonizing the private equity industry that created so many new jobs. Over and over again: Fiction. Half-truths. Downright lies," said Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples. Ray Fernandez, a former employee of the contact lens company Wesley Jessen, was another one of the individuals deployed to correct "a lot of false information about Bain Capital and private equity. My life today is better because of Bain Capital," said Fernandez. 

The DNC also featured three workers from Bain Capital as part of an effort to portray him as an enemy of the working class. A former employee of Dade Behring, a Bain-shuttered company, Cindy Hewitt, said that when Romney talks about his business experience, remember, it is not experience creating good-paying jobs, it is experience cutting jobs. She added that it is experience shutting plants; it is experience making millions by making life tougher for hard-working Americans.” "When Romney and Bain took over the mill, they loaded it up with millions in debt," said David Foster, a steelworkers union leader. "Within months, they used some of that borrowed money to pay themselves millions. Within a decade, the debt kept growing and was so large the company was forced into bankruptcy." Randy Johnson, a former factory worker whose company folded under Bain's watch, made the case that Romney "will stick it to the working people" while the president "is sticking up for the working people - it's as simple as that." "I don't think Mitt Romney is a bad man," Johnson said. "I don't fault him for the fact that some companies win and some companies lose - that's a fact of life. What I fault him for is making money without a moral compass. I fault him for putting profits ahead of working people like me. But that's just Romney economics.”