Surprisingly Downbeat Democrats…

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I had a drink yesterday with a smart Democrat mega-donor. I got a little lost looking for him in one the Big Cheese hotels and stopped in the bar. I wound up talking to a decent assortment of smart political types, ranging from a cagey former statewide office-holder in a very key swing state, to some top level money guys to a couple of local consultant types and a few hard-boiled ward enforcers from urban New England. I wanted to see how they were feeling about the first two convention nights, essentially the under-card of the Convention.

I talked to both Obama and Hillary people. The result? The Mayor of Gori, Georgia is more upbeat than most of them. “We’re losing” said one. The old pro-office holder looked around for observers, grimaced, and silently traced a downward slant with his hand. It was glum. Later, I compared notes with other media types and heard the same.

It surprised me. I thought convention started a little slow, but all in all the Democrats have a lot to be very happy about. Michelle did herself some real good and Hillary delivered. The generic environment is a Democrat’s dream.

But these smart money Democrats are desperate two things; gallons of John McCain’s political blood sloshing around the convention hall floor and a big bounce in the polls. No bounce has come (why would it on day two?) and the McCain bashing has been limited. The Obama High Command thinks a pure slash and burn approach to McCain is very dangerous stuff in a election where the voters are so unhappy. Hence the many “frienimies” of McCain we see at the podium. I think Obama’s strategists are dead right about this as it regards the long-term big picture, but such a cerebral strategy – correct or not — does little to feed the deep need of the Democrat officer class for the talismans of a certain victory. These party musclemen are reacting to McCain’s aggressive tactics. They think Obama is slipping and it worries them. It’s interesting; often the McCain campaign seems to be all tactics and no strategy, while the Obama campaign is often long on strategy and short on tactics. The movers and shakers here are feeling McCain’s sharp tactics while the potential dead-on correct Obama strategy remains a cloud of unfelt intellectual property. This has given a certain psychological edge here to McCain.

I’m sensing a little more energy and happiness now, after the strong Clinton and Kerry speeches. Obama’s speech tonight is the key to everything. We’ll soon know is the Democrats will be leaving Denver in a better state of mind. My guess is they will.