On the symbolism front, in what even leading Democrats admit was a spectacular display of self-inflicted stupidity, they managed to scrub any mention of God from the Democratic platform. They also removed support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. When they realized how grievously idiotic these unforced errors were, they tried to fix them by amending the document. The result was an ugly moment where the delegates voted three times against, in effect, God and Jerusalem, until the chairman of the convention, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa simply steamrolled his own party like some Politburo bully.
It's an unspoken rule of politics that you're in a bad place when you're renouncing God on TV -- three times! Even Peter stayed away from the cameras when he renounced Jesus.
Meanwhile, the Republicans seem to have become Dukakified. It was Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, who insisted that the election should be entirely about "competence, not ideology." Romney has avoided saying that in so many words, but it's certainly how he's campaigning. After running to the right in the primaries and boldly picking Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney bizarrely seems to have retreated to an ideological and even intellectual crouch.
Though he doesn't say it explicitly, the tone and tenor of Romney's convention speech suggested that Obama failed because didn't have the right resume, not because he has the wrong ideas. Stuart Stevens, Romney's top strategist, has dismayed many on the right by operating according to the theory that Romney mustn't do anything to offend the delicate sensibilities of some statistical abstraction of a female voter in the Ohio suburbs. Listening to the Romney speech, you'd have no idea he picked a principled, fearless and brilliant conservative lightning rod as a running mate.
If Stevens' theory of the election is right, then the GOP convention was brilliantly executed. But that is a huge gamble -- as huge as Obama's bet that Americans have moved left. Right now, however, it looks too much like a contest between people with the wrong ideas against people without any.