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Get ready for a lot of drama in political conventions

August 20, 2012|By Mark Z. Barabak
  • The Tampa Bay Times Forum, right, is the location of the Republican National Convention, which will be held Aug. 27-30.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum, right, is the location of the Republican National… (Tamara Lush / AP Photo )

Today’s word is contrast. As in vote for me, not that bum over there.

Of course, neither President Obama nor his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, will put it quite that crudely. But as the party faithful gather for their national conventions, starting with the Republicans next week in Tampa, Fla., the strategies of the two sides amount to the same thing: staking their candidate against the alternative.

Here’s Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod: “Any convention, ultimately, is a platform to talk about your candidate, in this case the president. Who he is, what values animate him, where he’s leading. Certainly that’s going to be a major part of what we do.”

But, Axelrod went on in a pre-convention interview, “Because we do believe this is such an important choice, we need to make clear what that choice is.… We’ll be talking about the president, his values, his record and vision, but we’re also going to be talking about the other side, because people need to understand what the choice is.”

In a separate interview, Russ Schriefer, Romney’s chief convention strategist, said the Republican challenger had three main goals for the gathering in Florida: Making the case that Obama has failed as president, that Romney and his policies can do better, and that the former Massachusetts governor “is uniquely qualified to take on the challenges that this country faces today.”

“The tone of the convention is going to be pretty factual,” Schriefer said. “I don’t think we have to overstate the case.… We don’t have to shout, we don’t have to bang our fists, just point to this president’s record.

“The differences between Gov. Romney and President Obama are big and real,” Schriefer said, and that’s the rare thing both sides agree on.

Do the conventions — which long ago stopped picking the presidential nominees — even matter in this day and age? Yes, and this story explains why.

Twitter: markzbarabak

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