Mitt Romney, Barack Obama
The Democrats and Republicans did their best to info-tain you with their party conventions. While the ultimate judgment will come in November, here are the stars who shined and dimmed during the confabs.
The candidates' wives
Never before did so much ride on the speeches given by the spouses of the two contenders — and First Lady Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, delivered on the task of humanizing their husbands. "Both husbands needed a little help in departments that only wives can talk about," says Bob Schieffer, moderator of CBS' Face the Nation. "I don't think people really know Mitt Romney. His wife was able to flesh out who he is. When it comes to Obama, a lot of people think he's too cool, that he sort of holds himself above the battle. Only his wife can come out and say, 'Yeah, he may be really cool on the outside, but he really cares.'"
Partisan cable networks
Watching politics on TV has become a tribal experience. The left-leaning MSNBC was the most watched during the Democratic convention on September 4 and 5 — a first for the network — while Conservative favorite Fox News Channel was the dominant choice during the Republican convention. (Fox News did try harder to play it straight by using its news anchors to lead its coverage). "We're in an era when the people watch where they think they can find their own views validated," says Schieffer.
It's no joke when surveys prove that young people go to The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report for their news. Among viewers age 18-34, the Comedy Central shows' takes on the Republican convention topped the cable news coverage of the actual event in the 11pm hour.
At a time when the electorate is more divided than ever, former President Bill Clinton's September 5 speech at the DNC was as close as we're going to get to TV comfort food in this campaign season. Bubba drew 25 million viewers across all of the networks, enough to top the NFL's season opener on NBC.
The convention bounce
Romney did not see the once-traditional bump in the polls after the delegates gathered. President Obama had an advantage in going second and is seeing more of a lift in his numbers. But overall, the back-to-back scheduling of the conventions so late in the summer may neutralize the effect they once had. "The conventions used to be in July, and you had a couple of weeks [between them]," says Matthew Dowd, a politics contributor with ABC News who served as the chief strategist in the 2004 campaign of President George W. Bush. "They provided people with a lot of information and an eye on something you haven't seen. This year, because they are so late in the process, and $400 million or $500 million has already been spent on advertising, you're going to have a hard time adding something new to the mix."
The film legend's freewheeling conversation with an empty chair on the final night of the Republican convention was a gold mine for comedians — but it made us forget about the party nominee. "I don't think it hurts Mitt Romney in the long term," says Schieffer. "It just made his night and his speech a lost opportunity. It showed that you better be sure about what you're doing on the night you're going to say who you are and what you stand for."
In 2008, Palin was the main attraction of the RNC after Sen. John McCain plucked her from obscurity and made her his running mate. This time around, she didn't even get a speaking slot and took to Twitter to complain that Fox News Channel had canceled some of her interviews during its coverage. Has her star power fizzled? You betcha.
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