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Democratic Convention: First Night Grades

Democratic Convention: First Night Grades
9/4/2012 11:17 PM ET

The first night of the Democratic National Convention was dominated by the address from First Lady Michelle Obama. It also featured the highly-anticipated keynote address by San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, one of the rising stars of the Democratic party. There were also memorable appearances by Joseph P. Kennedy III, Kal Penn, Corey Booker and Rahm Emanuel.

Here is a brief look at those speeches and some of the night's other memorable appearances:

Joseph P. Kennedy III - The grandson of Robert Kennedy had little more to do but invoke his family's legacy and provide a lead-in for a video honoring his late great uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy. But the handsome 31 year old (it looks like someone took his grandfather's hair and grafted it onto the face of a "Superman"-era Christopher Reeve), suggested an ability to take up his family's mantle as he seeks a Congressional seat from Massachusetts.

Grade: A-

Martin O'Malley - Saddled with leading the vapid cheer of "forward, not back," the Maryland governor, who has shown signs of presidential aspiration of late, didn't get to take full advantage of his prime-time slot. However, the appearance did show a relaxed charm and he provided pleasant filler on a night dominated by other speakers.

Grade: B

Corey Booker - An energetic (bordering on aggressive) speaker who got the Convention faithful on their feet - chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" at one point and "Corey! Corey!" at another. The Newark mayor provided entertaining partisan chest-thumping, but lacked anything transcendent.

Grade: C

Kal Penn - The star of the Harold and Kumar movies brought much-needed levity to the first night of the convention. He jokingly accepted the party's nomination as president, only to chide the teleprompter operator about loading the wrong script. He referenced Clint Eastwood's now-infamous "empty chair" speech from last week's Republican convention. But the actor, who has served the Obama Administration as its liaison to young voters, also made a heart-felt argument for what the current president has done to earn the youth vote.

Grade: A

Deval Patrick - One of the big crowd-pleasers from the first night of the convention, the Massachusetts governor managed to bring passion and excitement to attacks on Mitt Romney, who once held Patrick's job. He did this without becoming a shouting drone, like some of the night's other high-energy speakers.

Grade: A-

Ted Strickland - The former Ohio governor shouted most of his opening-night address. Still, he gets points for delivering the line of the night: "If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves." The remark may have been a complete non-sequitur, but at least it was memorable.

Grade: C+

Rahm Emanuel - Despite his reputation as a potty-mouthed tough guy, the Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff avoided sounding like a David Mamet character. And, contrary to expectations, he didn't play the role of anti-Romney attack dog. Instead, he focused on his time in the Obama White House and praised the accomplishments of his former boss.

Grade: B+

Julian Castro - Like Obama's breakthrough speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, when the current president was just a member of the Illinois legislature and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, there were expectations that the San Antonio mayor could use the DNC platform as a springboard from local office to a national profile. Following the Obama model, Castro used the speech to tell his American Dream family story, rising in two generations from immigrant to rising political star. Later in the appearance he veered into crowd-baiting jokes and anti-Romney jabs. It wasn't a transformative experience, but a solid effort in paying political dues.

Grade: B

Michelle Obama - Her speech may have been family-oriented boilerplate, but the First Lady is one of the most charismatic presidential spouses in recent memory. She's as comfortable in the spotlight as her husband, without either taking away from his shine, or seeming to rely on his reflected glow. She couldn't quite transcend a workman-like speech, but she did the job that was needed on the first night of the convention.

Grade: A

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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