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Obama's Victory Lap

After these many Tuesdays, victory speeches turn into a blur. But tonight’s effort from Obama was pretty deftly crafted. A couple of new—at least to me—rhetorical moves. There were the plays for Hillary’s voters: in addition to the obvious brown-nosing, he mentioned Seneca Falls in his climatic narration of social movements through history. He also began to turn towards November by invoking “sportsmen” and “churchgoers.” These were done in passing—and when he talked about churchgoers, he didn’t muddy his play for Christians by mentioning shul and mosque-goers. It was the casual way that he dropped these references that is politically promising. I liked that he returned to his patriotism themes tonight in a more substantial way. The language of American Exceptionalism should coarse through his every speech, a wholesale theft of Reaganesque language, and he had lots of “last best hope” and “only in America” lines tonight.

The stagecraft of Obama speeches always garners a lot of attention—those annoying Abercrombie guys, dudes on cell phones etc. I thought the Iowa optics were better—a backdrop of people that didn’t seem designed to exacerbate the anxieties of Obama-skeptics. It’s not high-minded stuff, but it matters.

--Franklin Foer