September 4, 2008 11:45 p.m.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this speech tonight. But I was pretty sure, as high-stakes conventions speeches almost always end up being, that it would be good. But I really don’t think it was. It certainly wasn’t bad. He didn’t say anything embarrassing or have any real flubs. But the truth is that John McCain does have, at least for a critical five years of his life, a compelling story. And for a relatively brief period of the speech, toward the end, he spoke about it powerfully. But there wasn’t that much of it. The rest of the speech, when condensed to its essence, seemed to be that he’ll turn the page on the Bush era by continuing all of Bush’s policies.

Among the surprises, perhaps the biggest one was that it actually wasn’t a very good speech. Not in the sense of delivery, but the speech itself, the speech-writing. There wasn’t a clear theme, though it approached on toward the end. Most of it was a fairly tired recital of Republican boilerplate. Did they really devote like ten minutes to charter schools? It was much, much too long for the speaker. I really think they could have given him a much better speech.

Another surprise? What happened to the days when the Republicans were the masters of stagecraft and theatrics. They had him up with there with a set that on TV looked like the notorious green screen from the speech in New Orleans. Even Karl Rove, on Fox, pointed it out.

And when they panned out to see what the audience in the convention hall saw, it was some unidentified mansion. Like maybe a house they’re putting in an offer on? Weird. No idea what that was about.

I’ll have more thoughts tomorrow. But I thought the delivery was acceptable but tired. The speech itself let the candidate down. I can’t imagine the folks at Obama HQ didn’t look at each other and say, “Okay, we can deal with that.”

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