Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First Lady Stays Above The Fray In Convention Speech


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene.

The Democratic National Convention opened last night in Charlotte.

INSKEEP: Democrats offered blistering attacks on Mitt Romney and a vigorous defense of President Obama's record.

GREENE: There were appeals to women voters, Hispanics, young people, and military families.

INSKEEP: And there was an appeal to win over black people who voted for the president four years ago and have been disappointed since.

Here's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Republicans say the president can't run on his record and Mr. Obama even gave himself an incomplete on the economy when asked to grade himself in a television interview on Monday.

But last night there were no apologies or incompletes given at the Democratic Convention, where speaker after speaker offered a full-throated defense of the president's accomplishments.

The keynote speaker was Julian Castro, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, Texas.


LIASSON: President Obama needs a huge turnout of Hispanic voters to win battleground states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida - and Castro was the perfect messenger, delivering an inspiring personal story and painting a portrait of Mitt Romney as clueless and out of touch. Romney just doesn't get it, Castro said.


LIASSON: Castro predicted Romney's economic plan would, quote, "dismantle the middle class." Other speakers were just as harsh.


LIASSON: That's Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL, the abortion rights group. If Republicans were reluctant to talk about social issues at their convention last week, the Democrats had no such hesitation. It was clear they think that gay marriage and abortion are issues that will help fire up their base in an election where motivation counts for more than persuasion.


LIASSON: There were speakers from a list of targeted voting groups - young families who'd been helped by the Affordable Care Act, a mom who has four children in four different branches of the military. She thanked the Obamas for helping military families.

Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq, attacked Romney for failing to mention U.S. troops fighting overseas in his convention speech.


LIASSON: Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland gave a stem-winder of a speech, praising President Obama as someone who, quote, "knows our struggles." On the other hand, Strickland said...


LIASSON: Strickland, an ordained minister, was probably the first politician to attack Romney's overseas bank accounts while quoting the Bible.

: Mitt has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.

In Matthew - in Matthew Chapter Six, Verse 21, the Scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

LIASSON: The barrage of attacks on Romney stopped when first lady Michelle Obama came out on stage. She gave a powerful personal speech about the president.


LIASSON: Mrs. Obama never mentioned Mitt Romney's name, but the critique of Romney was implicit.


LIASSON: Mrs. Obama is more popular than her husband. Her work on non-controversial issues like nutrition, obesity and military families have kept her above the political fray and given her a standing the campaign hopes she can transfer to the president. And last night she connected Mr. Obama's personal story to the argument for giving him a second term.


LIASSON: Mrs. Obama wove the lessons she said she and the president had learned from their parents into a veiled rejoinder to last week's Republican attacks.


LIASSON: Mrs. Obama's speech was a good example of the benefits of holding your convention after the other party. The Democrats will continue having the last word tonight when another powerful validator speaks for Mr. Obama - former President Bill Clinton. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Charlotte.

INSKEEP: Now, President Obama is expected to speak on Thursday, formally accepting another nomination for the White House. That speech was to take place outdoors in a football stadium before a crowd of more than 70,000, but we're told the possibility of severe weather has forced a change of plans. The president will now speak indoors to a much smaller audience, in the same arena where his wife spoke on Tuesday night. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.