Democrats brought out the heavy artillery Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention: the president and vice president, their new VP nominee and the former mayor of the country's largest city. It was a program where Democrats fully turned their attention to the fall campaign, devoting their time to praising Hillary Clinton and pounding Donald Trump. Here's what we saw, and why it might matter in the coming months:
Obama in the fray: This was perhaps the last national political speech of the president's time in office, and his attacks on Trump doubled as a defense of American idealism and the state of the country he will leave behind. "America is already great," he fired, countering Trump's campaign motto. Adopting some of the patriotic notes Republicans have long rallied around, Obama hailed the country as imperfect but still strong and vibrant. He seemed energized by the chance to go after Trump and to help Clinton, who he knows would secure his legacy. "Let's keep it going," he said in a nod toward his potential political heir. Clinton's strategy hinges on turning out Obama supporters, like those in Philadelphia, who voted for him in droves the past two elections. He may not have such a big stage again, but we will likely see much more of the president and first lady this election.
Biden - the everyman pugilist: Joe Biden came onto stage to the "Rocky" theme song (always a power move in Philly) and delivered his own kind of working class pugilism. A son of Scranton who rides Amtrak and often comes off like an over-exuberant uncle, Biden might be the best messenger Democrats have for their attacks on Trump's working class credentials -- and he delivered one of the most rousing speeches of his long career. (It left some wondering if maybe he should have been the party's nominee). Biden noted that Trump made the phrase "you're fired" famous and called his paeans to the middle class "malarkey." Trump has put states like Pennsylvania in play because of his strong appeal to working class workers. Democrats say they plan to undercut that strength by shining a light on Trump's record. Biden began that work in a forceful way Wednesday night.
A billionaire throws elbows: I was skeptical how much help Clinton could get from Mike Bloomberg -- a man well-regarded in the Northeast but derided in much of the country as a symbol of elite Northeastern sensibilities. But the former New York mayor launched a stinging attack on Trump's business acumen and even his sanity. With his own credentials as a self-made billionaire, Bloomberg used his standing to challenge Trump's claims of being a business genius who would be America's best deal-maker. "I'm a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one," Bloomberg said. His assault was helped by the fact that he has never been loyal to any one party.
An imbalance of power: Trump and his allies embraced the fact that so many Republican elites stayed away from the GOP convention last week, saying it showed how their nominee is truly shaking up the system. But we've seen one downside for Trump this week, as Democrats rolled out a murder's row of speakers with skill and cultural heft: a current president, former president, vice president and first lady each delivered powerful speeches. Trump was left to rely on his children, an unpopular New Jersey governor, a handful of senators and a New York mayor from the late 90's to bolster his message.
Missing the point? There is a potential downside in all the soaring Democratic oratory, though. Trump's success, and that of Bernie Sanders, shows that many Americans don't feel optimistic, and do believe the country is changing for the worse. In giving only passing mention to the anxieties so many feel, Obama and others risk sounding out of touch with the national mood, and downplaying deeply-felt worries. Change -- as Obama should know -- is a potent message. And change is something many voters want, no matter how many statistics Democrats cite about jobs or crime. Clinton will face the challenge tonight of building on her allies' positive message while also showing she understands why so many are fearful about the future.