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Polarizing Personalities: DNC Day 2

Matt Pressberg |
September 5, 2012 | 6:13 p.m. PDT

Staff Columnist

Fluke and Warren have plenty of friends and foes. (Dawn Megli/Creative Commons)
Fluke and Warren have plenty of friends and foes. (Dawn Megli/Creative Commons)
First Lady Michelle Obama, one of our country’s most beloved public figures, gave a masterfully soaring and devastating speech Tuesday night. She was preceded by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who also gave a mostly positive and optimistic speech and comes across like a person nearly impossible to dislike.

Wednesday night will offer much less in the way of featured speakers with crossover appeal.

Notorious recent law graduate Sandra Fluke will speak during the 9 p.m. hour. Fluke, who made a public name for herself when she testified before Congress and was branded a slut by Rush Limbaugh , plans to talk about a historic shift in the treatment of women across America, and argue that President Obama is the only choice to fight back against this “war.”

Doing silly dances for Glamour probably doesn’t help her image in this way, but I can’t imagine the (to this point) extremely well-organized convention would give her a significant speaking slot if she wasn’t going to add any value. Not to speak for the majority of men or Democrats, but as a (literal) card-carrying supporter of Planned Parenthood who was super excited to hear the awesome Cecile Richards speak early in Tuesday’s session, the less people are talking about Sandra Fluke tomorrow morning , the better I think it will be for the party.

Even more toxic than Miss Fluke to many swing voters and conservatives is Massachusetts Senate candidate and erstwhile Native American Elizabeth Warren. As Andrew Sullivan says, “she can turn Democrats into Republicans more effectively than Reagan.” Her message is generally agreeable to liberals, but as a messenger, while capable of awesome bursts of hot fire, she can sometimes lose patience with a less sophisticated audience and fall into “we hold these truths to be self-evident” frustration traps.

Warren is currently trailing a race that a generic Democrat should win, even accounting for the formidable political skill of Scott Brown. The fact that she’s not, with tons of money, recognition and generally favorable media treatment does not speak well to her as a complete candidate. Giving her a prime spot on the network broadcast of the convention adds the risk that she might want to capitalize on this opportunity to send a message in a race that might be slipping away, and force the president to spend his big day tomorrow walking back statements on economic policy and opening himself and his comrades up to more socialism attacks from Republicans.

To be clear, I don’t think Elizabeth Warren will stray from message and I expect her to give a strong speech, but if she does, the feedback will be much more severe than if a generic Democrat would have said the same. Elizabeth Warren would have absolutely pilloried for giving something along the lines of the Ted Strickland speech. She is already the face of the America-hating Occupy movement (which buckled along organizational faults, as we all sadly knew it would), and anything she says against the virtues of capitalism can and will be used against her.

Wednesday night will end with what is sure to be a long and comprehensively argued speech by former president Bill Clinton, who as a result of presiding over a period of economic growth remains popular among Americans at large and is likely to grab a firm hold of the storyline and dominate the next day’s media coverage, smoothly leading into the president’s speech which liberals, conservatives and independents alike expect to be fantastic. Bill should be able to close the night on an inclusive note, but Fluke and Warren are the wild cards.

Reach Staff Columnist Matt Pressberg here.

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