John Edwards takes the podium

Last night I tuned in for more of the DNC, watching a number of the lead-in speeches to Mr. Edwards, and then the night's big event, the Senator's speech. It's pretty clear from his delivery that he feels very comfortable talking to large groups (and it doesn't get a lot larger than a national political convention). He was relaxed, but energetic and provided a good jump off to the two nights of candidate speeches, ending in John Kerry's address tonight.

For those who want to know what was said without my blathering along, the Washington Post had a transcript up by the time he was 10 minutes into the speech.

The speech itself was good. I was curious to see how much of the "two Americas" rhetoric that he had become so well known for would make it into the speech, figuring that it might be a bit divisive for a national campaign. It took about five minutes of preliminary introduction (family, parents, personal values, and the similarities between his values and those of his runningmate) before he settled in to the comfortable "two Americas" speech, but it was definitely there--center stage. However, he used the phrase itself only once and used the basic concept for about six paragraphs, citing two health care systems, two public school systems, and two economies.

He then moved to discussing his key domestic issues:

  • Providing health care like that offered to the Senate

  • Raising standards and reforming schools

  • Providing after-school programs

  • Good paying jobs (and more of them)

After a while, though, he also got down to business and provided some specifics, which was a welcome change over most of the vagaries of the convention so far:

  • Provide good paying jobs by cutting tax cuts to companies that outsourced to other countries and providing them to companies that kept their jobs at home

  • Rewarding "work not just wealth" (made more specific later)

  • Help pay for health care with a $1,000 tax "break" (unclear if it was a credit or deduction)

  • Tax credit for up to $1,000 per year for kids to go to after school programs.

  • Tax "break" for up to $4,000 per year in tuition to go to college.

  • Keep and protect the tax cuts for 98% of Americans

  • Roll back the (presumedly George Bush) tax cuts on the upper 2% of Americans.

  • Cut corporate loopholes

  • Cut waste in federal spending

  • Raise the minimum wage

Most of the speech focused on domestic issues and most of those were economic (including education and health care), although he did mention the need to "listen to the wisdom of the 9/11 commission" and make a specific comment to Al Qaida ("You cannot run. You cannot hide. We will destroy you"). My guess is that he is leaving the respect around the world issue to John Kerry, which makes sense, since he would be the top of the ticket and it would be his job to work personally to restore that respect.

Like former President Clinton, he had a refrain in his speech: "Hope is on the way!" He used it often when discussing the economic and social issues on the domestic front in a way to give off the optimism that the problems would be addressed once he and Kerry are in the White House. However, unlike Clinton, he did not use it as a final rallying cry, which is a bit of a shame, since it's a good refrain.

All things considered, they have toned down the class warfare aspects that came across in some of his early (primary) speeches and brought the message to something that most Americans can relate to, at least in terms of the challenges ahead, if not in their particular solutions.

In the end, the speech was succinct, well delivered, and impassioned, if not quite as energetic as that given by Clinton.

Tune in tonight for Kerry's big speech.