US party conventions aren’t just about that year’s elections. Sure, the biggest speeches are from the Presidential nominees, their spouses and their running mates — but plenty of others take to the podiums as well. And while the content of their remarks may be all about beating the other guys in November, a fair few will have an eye on grabbing the nomination themselves next time around. If you doubt the power of a big convention speech, just look back to Obama’s keynote address in 2004, which catapulted the then-state senator into national stardom and towards the presidency. Indeed, perhaps the most significant feature of last week’s Republican convention was that Marco Rubio put in a stronger performance than potential 2016 rivals Chris Christie and Paul Ryan.
And so, as the first Democrats take to the stage in Charlotte, North Carolina tonight, several will be hoping that it’ll be their chance to pick up Obama’s mantle:
Julian Castro. The Mayor of San Antonio, Texas will make the keynote address tonight, and become the first Hispanic to do so at a Democratic National Convention. Like Obama in 2004, he’s relatively unknown on the national stage, but many predict that he has similar potential, and that tonight’s speech will demonstrate it.
Elizabeth Warren. The Harvard Law Professor is locked in a tight race for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Scott Brown, but already she’s being tipped as a candidate for President in four years. Warren has become something of a hero of the left, with her own more forceful version of Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that’ argument, that actually predates that President’s. It’s the sort of thing that should go down well in the convention centre tomorrow night.
John Hickenlooper and Martin O’Malley. Two Governors who are very popular in their home state and frequently mentioned for 2016, but not yet very well-known nationally. Strong convention speeches could help them begin to change that.
Notable absentees: Neither of the two early frontrunners for the Democratic nomination in 2016 — Hillary Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — will make a speech in Charlotte. Both are avoiding the convention to stay ‘above the political fray’ — Clinton because her role as Secretary of State demands it, Cuomo because he doesn’t want to be drawn into partisan fighting for Obama and risk alienating independents and Republicans. Both have enough of a profile already that they can afford to pass on the opportunity.
And there’s another interesting name on this week’s speaker list, although he’s unlikely to be a contender for the Democratic nomination in 2016. Indeed, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist isn’t even a member of the party (yet). Crist left the Republican party just two years ago after it became clear that Rubio would beat him in the Florida Senate primary. He ran instead as an independent and, despite losing heavily to Rubio, remains popular in the important swing state — making his endorsement of Obama, and his speaking slot in Charlotte, very significant.Tags: Democrats, US politics