Michelle Obama's convention speech: Overrated?

The First Lady's passionate address at the Democratic National Convention brought the crowd to its feet. But critics contend that the speech wasn't that "masterful"

Michelle Obama
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

First Lady Michelle Obama earned rave reviews from across the political spectrum for her speech on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, delivering an emphatic defense of her husband's first term that deftly used personal stories to illuminate the convictions at the core of his governing philosophy. Fox News host Chris Wallace said her speech was "masterful," and CNN's Anderson Cooper tweeted that he had "never heard such a well delivered speech by a first lady ever." But now that the applause has subsided, Michelle Obama's speech is getting another look. Does it hold up in the cold light of day?

The speech lacked substance and vision: "In terms of sheer oratorical skills," the First Lady is "as good as anyone in politics today," says Mark McKinnon at The Daily Beast. But "I don't think the speech itself was a home run." Sure, it "accomplished the goal of humanizing Obama and reminding people why they like" the president and his family. "But in the annals of convention speeches, I don't think it will be remembered for the content, the theme, [or] the vision." Michelle Obama succeeded at getting "Democrats all fired up and ready to go" — but that's about it.

"Michelle Obama's speech: Successful, but not great"

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And she didn't win over independents: The speech catered almost unswervingly to liberals, as the First Lady "praised government as the savior of the country" and highlighted her support for gay marriage and the deeply unpopular ObamaCare, says Dwight L. Schwab Jr. at The Examiner. "Did it garner one vote other than those already committed to Barack Obama? Did it convince one moderate, independent or disgruntled Democrat that the" president can turn the economy around? "The answer is a resounding no."

"Michelle Obama bypasses election-winning issues in speech"

Huh? The speech was a knockout: Obama delivered a "bravura performance" that combined "personal testimonials" with "Reaganesque rhetoric" to make the strongest case yet for her husband's re-election, says John Cassidy at The New Yorker. She spoke feelingly about the values that she and her family prize, while drawing "the threads together, insisting that her husband, in fighting for things like equal pay for women, universal health care, and a thriving auto industry, was simply doing what he had always done." After this wonderful speech, if she ever wants to run for office, "the option will always be there."

"The 'new Obama': Michelle keeps hope alive"

And she effectively, if indirectly, dinged Mitt Romney: The "most devastating attack on Mitt Romney" during the convention's first night came from Michelle Obama, "who did not mention Romney's name and said not a single cross thing about him," says E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post. "She devastated him by implication," contrasting the struggles she and her husband have overcome against Romney's life of privilege. And while the "speech was thoroughly apolitical on the surface," it "carried multiple political messages," showing how an active government can offer the less-advantaged opportunities that Republicans would rather shut down.

"Michelle Obama's speech: Both apolitical and politically masterful"

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