Joe Biden's speech on Thursday night ended the four-day Democratic National Convention with mixed reviews. The 77-year-old candidate seemed to surpass the low bar set by the media by sticking to the teleprompter and never seeming to be confused while on stage, but few reactions signaled a boost in enthusiasm for the Biden-Harris ticket.
The television ratings on Friday confirmed many concerned Democrats' fears when they showed a significant drop off in viewership from former nominee Hillary Clinton's speech in 2016. Biden drew in 21 percent fewer viewers than Clinton, who lost her election to Donald Trump.
Donald Trump's acceptance speech in 2016 outperformed Biden's on Thursday by a staggering 38 percent drawing nearly 35 million viewers. Just over 20 million tuned in to hear Biden last night, even as he was broadcast on every cable news channel and network T.V.
The Nielson numbers are still raw; there could be a shift upward in viewership as other networks report the ratings from last night. Organizers have also noted form the beginning that the speeches were also streamed online and those numbers are not easily tracked.
But the speeches were also streamable four years ago, and this year, people are cooped up at home with fewer excuses to have missed the big moment with Biden.
The ratings could seem like a petty criticism of the Democrat machine amid a troubling year and a do-or-die election for most Americans. But the lack of viewers highlights the biggest problem the party of the Left has going into the general election: enthusiasm for their candidate.
Biden's speech wasn't bad. But it also wasn't particularly good, even for the low number of people that tuned in to watch it. He repeated the same false promises about curing the nation of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic that he has on occasion for months from his Delaware basement. He says he'll lean into the Defense Production Act to produce rapid testing, but the current president has already done that. His other big plan is to institute a national mask mandate, a suggestion he has brought up before that is fraught with problems – the least of which being that even as president, he would have no such authority to do so.
Beyond his hollow and flappy promises about fixing the COVID-19 crisis, Biden rehashed several talking points that evoked debunked leftist talking points about the president, including his favorite: that Trump had praised neo-nazis during a deadly Charlottesville, VA, riot in 2015.
None of this was new, but it did seem a bit like the extended cut version of his campaign stump speech from before the days of basement lockdown. Despite the rapid increase in threat to our national security from the Chinese Communist Party, and the nightly riots, looting, and destruction by homegrown mobs in almost every major city, Biden mentioned neither of those. Although he certainly had the time.
Biden's speech, his longest in recent memory, went on for a grand total of 25 minutes. Every Democratic nominee in the past 30 years has gone on for much longer in their grand gesture of accepting the baton for the party. Even Mondale went over 30 minutes in 1984.
Per CSPAN, longest acceptance speech since 1972 was Bill (natch) in '96 at 64:44.— Carrie Dann (@CarrieNBCNews) July 22, 2016
Trump has now surpassed that. pic.twitter.com/kcxu0YCeJB
Certainly, no one is advocating that Biden speak much longer than he did, considering the level of excitement surrounding his words; but the doubt about his ability to do so is difficult to ignore.
The Democrats spent four days in almost total isolation, insisting on holding a nearly entirely virtual conference despite the CDC guidelines that would have allowed for some in-person cheering and other fanfare. Rather than taking the time to hoist up Biden as a statesman, an expert on policy, and a natural-born leader, they spoke incessantly about the man who currently occupies the White House.
Jokes are often made about President Trump living rent-free inside the head of Democrats, but this past week seemed to prove that wasn't a joke at all. The only thing they seemed to be able to say about Biden that made him a worthwhile candidate was that he was "empathetic."
But as they have now learned, "empathy" is a far cry from "enthusiasm."