It was a deeply substantive speech, full of policy detail, full of people other than the candidate, centered overwhelmingly on domestic economic anxiety. It was a liberal speech, more unabashedly, unashamedly liberal than any Democratic acceptance speech since the great era of American liberalism. But it made the case for that liberalism - in the context of the decline of the American dream, and the rise of cynicism and the collapse of cultural unity. His ability to portray that liberalism as a patriotic, unifying, ennobling tradition makes him the most lethal and remarkable Democratic figure since John F Kennedy.
What he didn't do was give an airy, abstract, dreamy confection of rhetoric. The McCain campaign set Obama up as a celebrity airhead, a Paris Hilton of wealth and elitism. And he let them portray him that way, and let them over-reach, and let them punch him again and again ... and then he turned around and destroyed them. If the Rove Republicans thought they were playing with a patsy, they just got a reality check.
TPM's Josh Marshall:
I thought this was a very strong speech. About exactly what was needed. It was a strong speech. He made the case for himself; he laid out clear policy goals; and he aggressively set forth the stakes of the campaign. He made the case against John McCain while not attacking his character -- which makes a clear contrast with McCain's aggressively personal, denigrating campaign strategy.
I've heard a few people say that he seemed to hold back from giving the soaring speech he might have given. But I suspect that was intentional and I think a good decision. Meta-themes and tonality form the deeper structure of political communication. And the aim of this speech was not eloquence but strength.
Washington Post's Chris Cillizza:
The optics of the event - the first national party convention to be held outdoors since John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960 -- were breathtaking. Television screens filled with images of Obama supporters dancing in the aisles to the tunes of Stevie Wonder and Sheryl Crow; a blazing orange sun set on an arid Colorado night as Obama prepared to take the stage. The speech ended with fireworks and confetti, as Obama, his runningmate, Sen. Joe Biden, and their families stood together waving to the crowd of delegates and supporters, at the climax of the Democratic National Convention.
Senator Hillary Clinton:
"Barack Obama's speech tonight laid out his specific, bold solutions and optimistic vision for our nation and our children's future.
"His speech crystallized the clear choice between he and Senator McCain. Four more years of the same failed policies or a leader who can tackle the great challenges we face: revitalizing our economy and restoring our standing in the world. I am proud to support Senator Obama, our next President of the United States and Joe Biden, our next Vice President of the United States."
Radar's Charles Kaiser:
It was the perfect culmination of a convention that was just as well-choreographed as the campaign that preceded it. Obama's speech was a splendid blend of stagecraft and substance. If you read the text, it hardly jumps off the page. But in Obama's hands it came alive, particularly here:
* We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.
* If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.
The cumulative effect of the words of Michelle, Teddy Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Obama himself should give the him a noticeable bounce.
MotherJones' David Corn:
It was a historic speech on a historic night--in a remarkable setting. A crowd of tens of thousands of Americans, filling an entire stadium in the middle of the country, waved American flags and signs calling for "Change." Never in the nation's history had more Americans attended such an event. Never before had an African-American accepted the presidential nomination of a major party in the United States. And the speech of Barack Obama matched the moment.
He connected his own history--the history of a not-quite-ordinary American family--to the mythical promise of America. His rhetoric soared--as usual--but it was tethered to reality: in particular, the stark differences between how Obama would approach the challenges the nation now faces and how John McCain would do so. Obama laced his criticism of the Bush years and the possible McCain years with a dose of populism, which gave portions of the speech a sharp edge. And he brought his pitch for hope and change down to the ground with a succinct description of policy ideas he would work for as president.