Appreciation of Michelle Obama’s speech tonight seems to be building and building. For sure she (as Chuck Todd just said on NBC) “owned” the convention in a way no speaker at either event has so far. There is zero question she accomplished a great deal to help generate “base” enthusiasm for her husband; she basically shamed Democrats into caring about this election. And her perfectly delivered speech created a variety of implicit contrasts with Ann Romney’s address last week, which “humanized” her husband by explaining that they once had to eat tuna pasta before Bain Capital was formed and took off, and have always given a healthy portion of their unimaginable wealth to private charity.

More generally, the first day of the Democratic convention exhibited two things some observers weren’t sure to expect: (1) a robust defense of Obama’s governing record, especially (and unexpectedly, as Ezra Klein notes) ObamaCare; and (2) a direct, uninhibited assault on the GOP generally and Mitt Romney specifically. On the latter front, Deval Patrick gave what might have been remembered, had Michelle Obama not blotted out the sun, as the best first-night speech. And “keynote” speaker Julian Castro provided a hefty combo platter of Latino solidarity with Obama; an implicit contrast with the laissez-faire oriented Latino outreach of the GOP convention; some good shots at Romney; and an appeal to younger voters.

As a veteran of the 2004 convention, when the word came down that speakers were not to criticize Republicans at all (based on some focus groups of independents expressing hostility to partisanship), this was all pretty amazing.

And I’m impressed so far at the Democrats’ ability to combine a contextualized and aggressive defense of Obama’s record with a direct challenge to the GOP message.

I personally figured tomorrow night with Bill Clinton would provide the first big fireworks of this convention. Now the big question is whether Clinton’s speech and Obama’s will build on tonight’s momentum, and present the complex, coherent case they need to move the numbers a bit and set the stage for an epic GOTV effort.

Back tomorrow to discuss the overnight evaluation of the first day, and the verbiage just ahead.


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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.