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Conventional wisdom?


   Like ripping a Band-Aid off in one quick pull, at least we're getting them over at once.
   I'm not talking about the multiple fantasy football drafts undertaken or back-to-school clothes shopping sprees endured. I'm talking about those political conventions everyone is so wrapped up in.
   Oh, really? Not everyone cares much?
   There are a few people left in the nation who probably still enjoy the conventions. It's probably down to two groups, though: avid party members who take in theirs and avoid the other, and political nuts who catch bits or a bunch of each, and eat up all the instant analysis and daily wrap-ups like cherry pie.
   I guess (nerd alert) I fall into the later group. Last week, I caught some (live or taped) of most of the key speeches at the GOP convention, including that Clint Eastwood ramble that made political history for its humor (if you're a Republican) or its inane oddness (if you're a Democrat).
   My take was that the Republicans had a strong convention, a good vibrancy emitting -- but how could you not with a three-day lovefest of like-minded people (Ron Paul backers aside). But the convention did seem more of a celebration of its ideology than its candidate, Mitt Romney.
   A certain takeaway is that the GOP has a pretty good crop of up-comers, if not party leaders already: Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and the GOP vice presidential pick this year, Paul Ryan. They all gave strong speeches. It will be interesting to see if either can use the convention stage opportunity as a springboard to the presidency, ala Bill Clinton (1988 keynote speech) and Obama (2004 keynote).
   No doubt the GOP's JV team appears much stronger, on paper, than the next generation of Demos. Can anyone name a prominent Demo in the national arena under age 45? The Demos are throwing the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, as their "next generation" speaker. OK, I guess.
   But this is the week for the Democrats. While the GOP pushed their version of what's next last week, the Demos' convention message for this week is Hope for No Change. The primary speakers are the first lady (always refreshing), vice president (always a potential for a trainwreck), and the cleanup hitter, former president Clinton (always politically powerful).
   On Thursday night, the president takes the stage. His lofty task: reignite the fervor that carried him to victory four years ago, to frame his achievements (health care legislation, Bin Laden gone and wars ending or winding down, and economic recovery) and deflect negatives (ballooning deficit, stagnant unemployment and an economic recovery that is, at best, slow-paced).
   Both Obama and Romney had, or have, one main goal behind their conventions: get voters excited about them. Both face hurdles on that front, even within their own party.
   But while Romney can't seem to ignite widescale, rabid support, he does have the superpacs lined up with an ungodly amount of dough to help buy that support -- or at least convince those swing state voters that President Obama is the worst president to ever walk the halls of the White House.
   I'm sure this fall will set a high mark in presidential campaign ugliness.
   On the campaign trail this weekend, Ryan went to the ol' Reagan playbook and asked the questions: are you better off now than you were four years ago, thinking the voters' answer is an easy no, I assume.
   But that answer isn't easy.
   Certainly we, as a nation, are not as well off, or as stable, economically as we were six years ago, but we are much better off than we were three years ago, when we were at the precipice of a second Depression and major industries were on the crest of failure. We've had job growth nearly every month for over two years, and have seen the stock market fully recover from the crash of '09.
   Only the far right views Obama as a Socialist bent on taking everyone's wealth. He merely wants to reset tax rates on the wealthy to where they were when Clinton was president -- the last time the nation had a budget surplus -- in an effort to bring down the debt.
   But that "better off" question is always at the root of presidential politics. That's the question that will, come November, be answered by those those nonaffiliated voters and Independents -- those neither Democrat or Republican -- who elect our presidents.
   The Republicans got three days to frame their argument that Obama needs to go. How will the Democrats, and the president, respond? It's must-see-TV, is it not?
   Watch a bit, or a bunch, of the convention this week. There may not be anything near as comical or memorable as Eastwood's Empty Chair speech, but like that quick Band-Aid rip, it will be worthwhile, and painless -- mostly so anyway.